Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Tanya Kalmanovitch

Villa Lobos Suite
Leo Records CD LR 742.

By Ken Waxman

Anyone expecting a performance of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ themes, or even a jazz-like interpretation of the 20th century Brazilian composer’s work, should be flustered. Instead these 10 tracks are instances of Proustian memory extensions: improvisations related to the emotions perceived by Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman when he first experienced Villa-Lobos’ sounds two decades ago. Further indication of its singularity the music is produced by the saxophone paired with two violas played by Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch. Alberta-born, Brooklyn-based Kalmanovitch, who teaches at Mannes College, has been in a string duo with Maneri for a decade. Her background is notated and ethnic music helps shape the sounds, informed by the others expertise in microtonality and free jazz.

Not that this is a suite of bravado soloing. The violists’ touch is allied so closely as to make separation impossible; plus the tenor tone is such that frequently it seems as if the program is from a string trio. However, Perelman’s Hemingway-like swagger, expressed in jagged hocketing and dense overblowing, distinguishes itself from the Georgian romanticism that sometimes characterizes the fiddles’ patterning counterpoint. Conversely concentrated pizzicato string plucks can create a staccato extension of the saxophonist’s tough altissimo smears. Should, as on track seven, Perelman’s biting tones become too atonal, they’re yanked back into harmonic congruence by accordion-like tremolo from both violas. Throughout Kalmanovitch’s and Maneri’s rippling double counterpoint that torques textures to a rougher plane further maintain the unconventionality of this suite. At the same time though, just as Perelman’s timbral bites and slaps reference other jazz saxists like Albert Ayler and Paul Gonsalves, the violists’ frequent division of tones between accelerating lightness and decelerating darkness confirms the suite’s links to the ongoing orchestral tradition.

Like Marcel Duchamp’s found-art porcelain urinal displayed with the title “Fountain” which mocked fine art as it celebrated it, so too does the Villa Lobos Suite substantiate artists’ unique visions – Perelman’s, Maneri’s, Kalmanovitch’s and Villa-Lobos’ – without resorting to any copying or emulation

—For MusicWorks #124 Spring 2016