Perelman/Shipp/Parker/Cleaver

Serendipity
Leo Records CD LR 668

Perelman/Shipp/Bisio/Dickey

The Edge

Leo Records CD LR 667

One of the decisions – of many – that has to be made when playing purely improvised music is whether to break inspiration into bite-sized pieces or eject the narratives as mammoth slabs. On these complementary CDs, Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman, who has recorded in context ranging from solo to septets, tries both on for size. While correspondingly stimulating, the personnel of the two quartets defines the creations more than the instruments used.

Chance and accident were also in force. The Edge for instance, which parcels out its improvisation among nine tracks, was a pre-arranged studio date featuring the saxman with pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey, all of whom have recorded with Perelman in different configurations. On the other hand, Serendipity is just that. A trio date that became a quartet session when another player was called when it appeared that one musician wouldn’t make the gig. When everyone did, they sat down and blew extemporaneously for 43 minutes without pause. Joining Perelman and Ship on this date are bassist William Parker and Gerald Cleaver

As can be expected, the fundamental difference between the dates is the rhythm sections which have antithetical means of expression. On the first date Bisio is unobtrusive enough at points to be nearly inaudible, making his presence felt only when he deems it necessary, usually with sul ponticello sweeps or arpeggiated plucks. Quite the opposite, Parker’s stentorian thumps are front-and-centre throughout the other CD, while Cleaver’s rhythmic articulation makes it clear why he’s so in demand on mainstream as well as so-called avant-garde sessions.

From the start, Perelman’s multi-syllabic and multi-tonal output is twisted into guttural howl or altissimo cries, while also cramming enough ideas into his phrasing that might serve a more phlegmatic reedman for a year. Spraying concentrated phrases over the performance he’s matched at different junctures by the pianist whose kinetic cascades follow a similar path. At the same time the performance never appears overly constricted because Shipp somehow manages to sinuously slide around and between the explosive reed expositions. When it comes time for his solo however Shipp hunts for and pecks out chromatic chords until he settles into a Bop-like tremolo mode, with Parker and Cleaver playing Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb to his Wynton Kelley. The bassist’s subsequent solo slowly rotates the piece back outside with decelerated plucks until the saxophonist re-enters the fray with reed bites and staccato yelp working into a frantic exposition, which at one point inexplicably appears to quote “Salt Peanuts”. The bassist’s thumps and Cleaver’s rat tat tats provide down-to-earth backing throughout, keeping the track on solid footing, so that when Perelman finally exits, his phrases turn to mid-tempo slurs, and then fade away completely.

With other CD’s tracks more short story than Serendipity’s novella length, staccato pressure is somewhat lessened. While there are episodes of pumping glossolalia, the reedist takes on a wary, conversational tone in spots. This is especially apparent on “Lancaster”, where before the exchange heats up at the roaring climax, Perelman’s line is almost moderato and Shipp’s comping sympathetic. The title tune is likewise voiced in a low-pressure manner before it too lives up to its title as Perelman pushes both himself and Shipp towards the edge with a squealing vibrato. The resulting heated exchange confirms that the pianist has to give no quarter with the thick theme defined as much by his high-frequency keyboard cascades as reed whinnies.

Luckily Bisio’s timed pulses and Dickey’s ruffs and drags are on side to help link the nine chapters into a thematic whole. By the final track their fused syncopation makes the saxman comfortable enough to approximate a balladic approach in his solo. That’s not the only part of his originality however as a close listen to Perelman’s improvising on a tour-de-force such as “Volcanic” reveals. Unlike other masters of the genre like Albert Ayler and John Coltrane’s later work, his staccato narrative is tensile enough to expose his cerebral timbre stuttering and sampling as he works though every variation of a note and tone.

Two Perelman quartets; two fine slabs of uncompromising improv.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Edge: 1. Clarinblasen 2. Lancaster 3. Epigraph 4. The Edge 5. Zapotecs 6. Fatal Thorns 7. Interlude 8. Volcanic 9. Websterisms.

Personnel: Edge: Ivo Perelman (tenor saxophone); Matthew Shipp (piano); Michael Bisio (bass) and Whit Dickey (drums)

Track Listing: Serendipity: 1. Serendipity

Personnel: Ivo Perelman (tenor saxophone); Matthew Shipp (piano); William Parker (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)