Jeff Pearring's background in jazz, classical, reggae and other genres has informed his creative process in ways that are not always apparent. That turns out to be a good thing as his ability to encapsulate influences without genuflecting is part of his music's appeal. The alto saxophonist, a Brooklyn-based Colorado native, is a Connie Crothers protégé with a similarly independent mindset. Billed as "Pearring Sound," the saxophonist surrounds himself with a rotation of players varying on three previous, self-produced albums, What Had Happened (2016), True Story (2018) and Nothing But Time (2019). Pearring's latest, Socially Distanced Duos, sets up a collection of diverse duo performances with (mostly) new colleagues.
According to Pearring, the eight tracks on Socially Distanced Duos were all made in-person at the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Scholes Street Studio with plexiglass and tarps creating a "socially distant" barrier between the musicians. The recordings took place once a week for six consecutive weeks; each is noteworthy. Particularly interesting are Pearring's drum-sax pairings on the first two tracks, "Twisting Pavement" and "Time in Isolation." Billy Mintz takes the throne on both tracks, the style moving from angular to quirky blues. Claire de Brunner, formerly the principal bassoonist of the NY Philharmonic, appears on "Shapeshifter," a title that well-describes the overall content of the album. Among the other luminaries sharing the stage with Pearring are saxophonist Daniel Carter and bassist Ken Filiano. Percussionist Francisco Mela is featured in the closing duo on the very satisfying "Extempore Arquitectura."
In documenting the creative barriers of the pandemic, Pearring paints a series of impressions reflecting a range from inconvenience to crisis. He spontaneously generates bombast-free ideas, while his partners instinctively move the stories through the leader's wide berth of ideas. Socially Distanced Duos is intriguing from beginning to end and highlights Pearring's artistic prowess to a greater extent than his previous releases.
Twisting Pavement; Time in Isolation; Shapeshifter; A Continuous Conversation Renewed; Solar; Then We Won't; Present Value Impact, The Gift; Extempore Arquitectura.