Tuesday, August 27, 2013


In his latest harvest of recordings, saxophone visionary Ivo Perelman unveils the products of an especially fruitful month in the recording studio. Not all of the month's recordings: the current crop contains "only" two releases (on Leo Records), which contain just half the music documented during the month of May 2013. (Even considering the whirlwind pace of exploration and discovery that marks Perelman's work, that is indeed a bumper crop.)What's more, each of these recordings uses a unique combination of artists to frame Perelman's dervish saxophone in quite different contexts. 

They would seem to have absolutely nothing in common, except for the presence of Perelman and his musical blood brother, pianist Matthew Shipp. But in Perelman's view, it is this diversity itself that binds them together to depict a single month in his creative life. "What links them is they sound completely different," he says. That statement risks self-contradiction, but as Perelman explains: "The link is that within the same month, in the same time and space, living my same own life, I went into the studio four times and came out with such different results. Of course, I went in with different intents, different goals, and different musicians. 

But the difference is so large - the results are so disparate - that this is what they have in common." In other words, they share one trait: each is utterly unique from the others, although they all stem from the same esthetic consciousness within a finite period of time. Another thing they all share, of course, is the protean and electrifying voice emanating from Perelman's tenor saxophone, which he has fashioned into a singularly expressive vehicle for his far-ranging vision. As jazz authority Neil Tesser writes - in the liner notes to A Violent Dose Of Anything - Perelman's solos "are grounded in the rich soil and rare earths of saxophone history, but they can also prove shockingly mercurial; they traverse that history in swift flights from zephryrous melody to supersonic yawps. . . . Strip away the unpleasant connotations oft he word and 'violence' - which can be defined as 'strength of emotion, or a 'swift and intense force' - might easily creep into descriptions of Perelman's galvanic explorations." 

This album comprises the first of two recording sessions used in the soundtrack for A Violent Dose Of Anything, a 2013 film from Brazilian director Gustavo Galvao. When Galvao approached Perelman about creating music for the film - which follows some young Brazilians "on the road," going from town to town in a quest for self-discovery - the saxophonist at first demurred. Perelman's preferred method of creating music is to walk into the studio with no preconceptions (not even a written theme) and improvise, from scratch,for an hour or so. 

Nothing could stray further from the usual movie-soundtrack process, by which a composer painstakingly fits and shapes music to fit the split-second edits of the finished film. "I told him how I would work, with nothing written, and music not tied to each scene, says Perelman. "I told him I would just go into the studio and make the music, like I always do,and he could pick and choose what he wanted. And to my surprise, he said yes. But I knew that in the recording many moods would come up, like they always do" - more than enough to suit the cinematic needs of the director. Perelman also knew that he wanted to feature a string instrument with his saxophone and Shipp's piano, and to that end he enlisted leading new-music violist Mat Maneri. "I wanted someone who would understand how to work with a saxophone," he points out, and chose Maneri based on his recordings with his father, the iconoclastic saxophonist Joe Maneri.  

This first-ever meeting resulted in a series of performances that indeed reflect a cinematic range of moods and emotions. (The pieces were titled post-production, for characters and places in the film.) Perelman's interplay with Shipp was to be expected: they have developed an extraordinary communication, documented on nearly a dozen recordings over the last three years. Maneri provides a salutary wild card. His hyper-expressive bowing,and his ability to match and at times anticipate Perelman's approach, give the saxophonist a worthy alter-ego while adding layered depth to the music. 

This is one of two recordings Perelman provided for the soundtrack; the other features Shipp and the improvising string quartet Sirius. Perelman recorded both sessions in the first part of May, 2013, and Galvao uses portions of each project in his film. The follow-up recording has a planned release of early 2014. (Shortly after finishing his soundtrack recording, Perelman undertook another adventure, at the behest of his longtime bassist - and frequent guitarist - Joe Morris. After working in a metal rock band with the unlikely name Slobber Pup, Morris learned that the band's drummer, a young Hungarian named Balázs Pándi, was in fact a fan of Perelman's. 

Their mutual admiration led to a studio date - another chapter in Perelman's busy month of May, 2013 - that will be released on RareNoiseRecords, simultaneously with the saxophonist's two albums on Leo Records.) Finally, before the month ended, Perelman found himself in the studio to record Enigma. "I was starting to hear in my head a denser sound, so I wanted to experiment with that - by doubling the personnel," he says. To do so, he invited the drummers who have worked most often with Shipp and himself over the last several years: Gerald Cleaver, the drummer in Perelman's quartet, and Whit Dickey, the drummer in Shipp's own trio. "It was just time to put them together," Perelman explains. "But it was very risky, because both Gerald and Whit are very individual, very particular voices on the drums. So you might possibly dilute their strength; or it could double to unbearable heights." But as proved by the album, neither of those extreme outcomes occurred. Instead, as Neil Tesser writes in the liner notes, "Enigma has a transparency - a clarity of melodic logic, a clarion lyricism, a lightness of context - that actively opposes the sonic complexity that might well come from two drummers banging away at each other." 

The surprise of Enigma, and much of its joy, comes from the thoughtful and even delicate ways in which the percussionists interact - as well as in Perelman's reaction to their dual presence. "It was very organic," he says. "At times they merged intentionally, and became one big drum set; and sometimes the very next bar they would go their own way. When you have two drummers, they can be two, or one, at will." Born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, Perelman excelled at classical guitar before finally gravitating to the tenor saxophone. His initial influences - cool jazz saxophonists Stan Getz and Paul Desmond - could hardly have presaged the volcanic improvisations that have become Perelman's stock-in-trade. But those early influences helped shape the romantic warrior at the heart of his most heated musical adventures.  

In 1981 he entered Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he focused on the mainstream masters of the tenor sax to the exclusion of such pioneering avant-gardists as Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and John Coltrane - all of whom would later be cited as precedents for Perelman's own work. He left Berklee in 1983 and moved to Los Angeles, where he soon discovered his penchant for post-structure improvisation; emboldened by this approach, he began to research the free-jazz saxophonists who had come before him. In the early 90s he moved to the more inviting artistic milieu of New York, where he now lives and works - not only on his music, but also on the drawings and paintings that have attracted admirers worldwide to his skill as a visual artist.  Critics have lauded Perelman's no-holds-barred saxophone style, on the one hand calling him "tremendously lyrical" (Gary Giddins) and, on the other, "the most intense, disturbing, tormenting sax player alive" (Françoise Couture in Desire Actuel). The blog improvandsounds.com called attention to his "piercing, burning, meaningfully warm, lyrically expressive, dream-awakening sounds that explode with an unrivalled urgency." This latest series of recordings is sure to elicit even more - and perhaps even more extravagant - accolades for his remarkable innovations.

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