The subtitle of the Ivo Perelman Trio's Garden Of Jewels should be The Pandemic Session. Recorded on June 17, 2020 in the midst of a pandemic when clubs and restaurants were shuttered and "six feet apart" was the clarion call of the moment, the music is a chronicle of the times. At least, that is the impression you would feel if you had lived through the COVID-19 scare. Wait a minute, no one reading this was/is immune from the deadly contagion.
Leaving their homes to record new music, saxophonist Perelman, pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Whit Dickey were participating in a specific communal activity. This shared pursuit, music making, might be the most human gesture Homo sapiens participates in. Well, besides hunting and gathering. The three musicians have recorded together as a trio on The Clairvoyant (Leo Records, 2012) and Butterfly Whispers (Leo Records, 2015) and the Perelman/Shipp duo has produced too many sessions to count. Dickey has joined the saxophonist in other various settings including with the bassists Michael Bisio and William Parker, violist Mat Maneri and the Perelman/Shipp duo with two drummers Enigma (Leo Records, 2013) plus Gerald Cleaver.
What would we hear from musicians isolated and living in their own bubbles for months? The short answer, intense and impassioned free improvisation. Shipp's simple piano figures that open the title track lead into Perelman's tenor echoing the sounds of Lester Young's horn. It is as if the saxophonist is trawling a past life lived before settling into the present. Dickey's brush work and Shipp's bright touch follow this distillation of history. "Amethyst" draws upon Albert Aylerlike calls before the saxophone is calmed by Shipp's sylvan notes. The intensity of the music, even in the contrasting silence and heaviness of "Onyx," suggests the listener might be best served by inserting a pause between tracks to fully digest the experience. The shifting nature of "Turquoise" is an excellent example of a musical trust fall. Each player plots a direction. A percussive Shipp attack, an electrified seasoning from Dickey, and the saxophonist's fluttering altissimo tightrope-walk combine to create a communal aggregate. We do not know if there were other tracks recorded at this session, but the eight selected here show no signs of rust and are in total sync.
Garden Of Jewels; Tourmaline; Amethyst; Onyx; Turquoise; Emerald; Sapphire; Diamond.
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