Ivo Perelman Makes It Rain

Mark Corroto BY

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If music was sports, then Ivo Perelman would be baseball and most other musicians football. Where football's regular season is 16 games, baseball plays 162. Likewise, most musicians release one album every year or two, but Perelman has averaged seven titles per year for the last seven years. His 2017 Leo Records output is thirteen (fourteen, if you consider one release is a double live recording). Sure football fans, I mean casual jazz listeners, may scoff at the numbers. But like baseball aficionados who follow the daily box scores and know the batting stances of their favorite players, the jazz devotee (let's not say fanatic here) rejoices in the nuance of every new release by this prolific saxophonist.

As with baseball connoisseurs, the history of music and of a musician is essential to appreciate the current state of affairs. If you can rewind Perelman's career back to his birthplace in Brazil and his training in classical guitar, you get a sense that the music he creates today on tenor saxophone is a total immersion in freedom and creativity. A journey through the eighty recordings he made these past twenty-five years illustrates his progression from John Coltrane to Albert Ayler with a smattering of Brazilian folk music to his unique sound. Those familiar with his earliest work, like his recordings with William Parker and Rashied Ali, Sad Life (Leo Lab, 1997) and the out-of-print (and impossible to locate) Live (Zero In, 1997) experience his raw blowing talents. One could almost liken his playing to the energies of punk rock. Over the years he has refined his sound and created a personal language that is as vibrant as his early years, but much more ripened, ergo mature.

Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp
Live In Brussels
Leo Records

For the past five years, Ivo Perelman's closest collaborator has been the pianist Matthew Shipp. It is not a stretch to say they are musical brothers from different mothers. Like the saxophonist, Shipp is a jazz iconoclast, mostly working outside the institutions that have domesticated jazz. By that I mean, the forces that have attempted to sanitize the music and corral it into museums. The double disc Live In Brussels, recorded on the duo's European tour in the spring of 2017 follows the saxophonist earlier 2017 seven Leo Records releases The Art Of Perelman-Shipp which included one duo, two quartet, and four trio recordings. If there is a rock upon which the saxophonist can build his church, it is Matthew Shipp.

Recorded at L'Archiduc, a small iconic jazz club in Brussels, the two sets found on these discs have a certain magic. Musicians always say they feed off of the audience's energy, but here it is quite apparent even though the seventy-five or so listeners are barely heard on this recording. The language Perelman and Shipp utilize here is one of small gestures and intricate building design. The saxophonist doesn't seem to blow notes, it's more as if he is speaking them and the pianist is constantly revealing the intricacies of a tight DNA spiral of sound. This was a taut, edge-of your-seat kind of concert, preserved for those who weren't in attendance.

Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp / Jeff Cosgrove
Live In Baltimore
Leo Records

Ivo Perelman's second live recording of 2017 is a trio date from June. The saxophonist's partner, Matthew Shipp, is in attendance, as is the new voice of Jeff Cosgrove. The drummer was recommended by Shipp, probably after the success of Alternating Current (Grizzley Music, 2014) a trio recording with the pianist and William Parker, and he can also be heard with Martin Wind and Frank Kimbrough on Conversations With Owls (Grizzley Music, 2015).

Not that a Perelman recording is ever a rote experience, but injecting a new element into the mix does have interesting consequences. The recording is one continuous 51-minute improvisation. Shipp and Perelman open with an attack au fer and parry (note: the music gave the impression that only fencing terminology would suffice here). Maybe all this was due to the new kid on the bandstand, and Cosgrove responds, not in kind, but with brushes. His approach is to accent the affair, even when he switches to drumsticks, his emphasis is more annotation than agitation. Shipp's percussive attack supplies that. Eventually Perelman displays a softer side in his playing, pulling references to Lester Young before being coaxed back outward by Shipp. Fans of colorist drummers will rejoice at this outing.

Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp / Joe Hertenstein
Leo Records

The Perelman/Shipp trio is completed once again by a new name, Joe Hertenstein. Where the saxophonist's most recent discs have relied upon the established pulse of Gerald Cleaver or Whit Dickey, he has expanded his universe to include drummers Andrew Cyrille on Dione (2017), Bobby Kapp Tarvos (2017) Heptagon (see below), and Jeff Cosgrove (see above). This studio date evolved from Shipp's two recordings with Hertenstein and The Core Trio released on FreeBass Productions (2014) and Evil Rabbit Records (2016).

The music is, of course, all spontaneous, and it once again is influenced by the newest member. Hertenstein is more rock than roll here, an approach not heard with his trio HNH (with Pascal Niggenkemper and Thomas Heberer). Let's say he lit the candle in the midst of these two heavyweight improvisors to earn his bones. In any case, the recording is a carbonated affair. As Perelman is quoted in the liner notes, "he plays symphonic music, he plays jazz; he plays things that don't make sense." Like Paal Nilssen-Love, Hertenstein is a proponent of the aggressive rattle and bang. He turns the opening "Part 1" inside-out, inciting Shipp's thunderous march and Perelman's upper register gymnastics. Even the quieter pieces, "Part 2" and "Part 6" are busy affairs, swarming with cymbal and clink. This new trio alliance communicated great promise for things to come.

Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp / Nate Wooley
Philosopher's Stone
Leo Records

The simultaneous release of Philosopher's Stone and em>Octagon mark another new chapter in the music of Ivo Perelman. Not that each new musician introduced into his orbit doesn't mark a new phase, but the addition of a second horn adds a new twist to an age-old pairing. Trumpeter Nate Wooley occupies a position not heard with the saxophonist since Louis Sclavis joined Perelman for The Ventriloquist (Leo Records, 2002), that was, gulp, fifty-eight releases ago.

Wooley is a perfect fit for the saxophonist. Like Perelman, he is a connoisseur of the upper register, growls, split tones, and the construction of his own musical language. And he plays well with saxophonists, like on All Directions Home (Audiographic Records, 2015) with Ken Vandermark, From Wolves To Whales (Aerophonic Records, 2015) with Dave Rempis, and Ninth Square (Clean Feed, 2015) with Evan Parker.

Ivo Perelman / Nate Wooley / Brandon Lopez / Gerald Cleaver
Leo Records

Octagon is a quartet record with drummer Gerald Cleaver and the young bassist Brandon Lopez from Wooley's latest Knknighgh (Minimal Poetry for Aram Saroyan) (Clean Feed, 2017). The trumpeter (and drums) are not heard until "Part 2." Maybe "Part 1" lays the out the street map for this session, with Perelman meshing with the percussive attack of Lopez' bass. When Wooley does step up, nearly three minutes into "Part 2," he harmonizes with the saxophonist's yowling tone. The quartet works through a vague off-kilter blues ramping the pulse before its denouement. The quartet plays a rough tug-of-war on the brief "Part 5" and chills into "Part 6," delivering an (almost) call-and-response performance. "Part 7" might be the fullest expression of this ensemble. Beginning with Wooley's trumpet suitcase of techniques open for display, the pulse accelerates into a hybrid avant/hard-bop dance number.

Philosopher's Stone finds Perelman, Wooley and Matthew Shipp in fellowship. The pianist, for the most part, plays the role of field governor, supplying the fuel for these ten pieces. They range from the nearly indolent "Part 8" and "Part 2" that perambulate through sonic textures, to the pugilistic "Part 3" with all three musicians trading blows. Sans drummer and bassist, the technique of each musician is front-and-center. The highlight, at least for those who listened to Perelman's early works like Soccer Land (Ibeji, 1994), is "Part 7" and it's obvious reference to the music of Donald and Albert Ayler. If this piece is a teaser for an Ayler tribute to come. Please proceed.

Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp / William Parker / Bobby Kapp
Leo Records

The quartet recording Heptagon draws the saxophonist Perelman back towards his roots in free music. Maybe it is the inclusion of Bobby Kapp? Yes, it is definitely the presence of the drummer who was first heard on the 1960s records by Gato Barbieri, Marion Brown, and Dave Burrell. His resurgence has been built on recordings with Matthew Shipp, Themes 4 Transmutation (self released, 2014) and Cactus (Northern Spy, 2016. He was also heard with Perelman and Shipp on Tarvos (Leo, 2017). Rounding out the quartet is Shipp and the padrone of free jazz, bassist William Parker.

Recorded in seven "Parts," the session commences with the lurching "Part 1," four musicians with differing agendas who are bound together by an itinerary. Their approach here, and on much of the date, is to parboil, occasionally lifting the lid to taste differing solos. Sometimes the free fall of sound is the strategy ("Part 2"), other times the plan is to just flow free ("Part 7"). The latter piece finds Shipp applying thunderous chords, Perelman working his upper register bedlam, and Kapp juggling cymbals and skins as if he had three arms. The highlight here is "Part 6," the gambol melody that bounces on Shipp's keyboard while Perelman whirls dervish-like, and the team of Kapp and Parker keep time.

Tracks and Personnel

Live In Brussels

Tracks: CD1: Set 1 Part 1; Set 1 Part 2; CD2: Set 2, Encore.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano.

Live In Baltimore

Tracks: Second Set.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Jeff Cosgrove: drums.


Tracks: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Joe Hertenstein: drums.

Philosopher's Stone

Tracks: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Nate Wooley: trumpet.


Tracks: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Brandon Lopez: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.


Tracks: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass; Bobby Kapp: drums.

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