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Ivo Perelman: The Eye Listens

Jim Santella By

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Impressionism carries Ivo Perelman along roads near and far. Most avenues on The Eye Listens carry his free, improvising trio through intense spasms of outward emotion. Consider our natural world. From the quiet sovereignty of a pink, summer rose to the horrifying power of a wintry tornado; Mother Nature has made room for it all. The eye accepts this because it’s there. Perelman steers his tenor saxophone through the eye of the hurricane again and again. The mood changes from desolate, desert landscapes to lush, dripping rainforests. There’s no doubt about what you’re experiencing because the impression is yours. That’s the beauty of free jazz.

Without a feeling of swing and outside quotes from familiar tunes, how does one identify with Perelman’s session? His “The Solution” provides one answer. The trio provides no format, no meter, and no set rhythm. And yet, the music resembles straight-ahead jazz. It’s because they’re improvising from the same source. Perelman’s trio has moved much closer to the edge of the circle than, say Wynton Marsalis’ septet. Both ensembles improvise well and provide nonstandard musical effects to achieve that purpose. While Marsalis and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon employ (in their performances) stutter-tongued phrases and growling wah-wah choruses, Perelman goes for the jugular vein. Here, the balance of dramatic material to pleasant balladry is a far cry from the norm. The saxophonist pierces the air with reedy shouts and cries that leave no doubt about their impressionistic value.

“Give Them the Spiritual” includes both crying through the instrument and crying out loud. More vocal, rapid-fire passages provide an array of emotions — most of them far from happy. The trio aims for a balance, as the saxophonist’s pure tone opens wide, like that pink rose on a summer’s morning. Highly recommended, Perelman’s session includes great sound, attention to studied musicianship, charged energy and total freedom. The Eye Listens is not for the average listener, but remains accessible for one who’s willing to take the trip.


Track Listing: A Night at the Opera; The Eye Listens; The Solution; Give Them the Spiritual; Dance of the Infidels.

Personnel: Ivo Perelman- tenor saxophone, vocals on

Title: The Eye Listens | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Boxholder Records


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