Fowler/Perelman/Shipp/Amba/Parker/Hirsh Sextet

January 24, 2023

Alien Skin
Mahakala Music MAHA-041

Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp
ESP 5070

Long-time associates, Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and American pianist Matthew Shipp are involved in these divergent programs recorded in New York within 3½ months of one another. Fruition came to fruition as the two’s 18th duo set and divides the in-the-moment improvisations among 10 mid-length tracks. The only Alien Skin involved during the five extended tracks which make up the eponymously titled second disc are of improvisers who the two haven’t recorded with before: reeds players Chad Fowler and Zoh Amba and drummer Steve Hirsh. Bassist William Parker has played with all the others, as well as it seems most of the world’s creative musicians.

Familiar with one another’s moves as those in any enduring partnership, Perelman and Shipp pilot their way between higher-pitched cadenzas and breathy tone variations on the saxophonist’s part and keyboard responses or applications that run from full processional sweeps to singular accents on the pianist’s. Connecting swing variations to broken chords, the pianist sometimes speeds up his segments so as to better frame the saxophonist’s shaking, altissimo bites. At the same time, while Ship’s timepiece ticking straightens patterns on tracks such as “Fourteen” and “Two” hard discursive key splattering or ascending and descending sound clusters contribute as much to theme fragmentation as Perelman’s squeezed flattement and elevated reed vibrations that resemble “Taps”. Elsewhere the intersection slows down to more easily match intense keyboard note ringing and reed split tones. But even as call-and-response is connected, its pivotal to note how two sophisticated improvisers forge profound interaction without repeating familiar patterns.

The situation is much different on Alien Skin since the addition of bass and drums as well as Fowler’s stritch and saxello and Amba’s tenor saxophone and flute move the selections and sextet into the realm of dynamic group improvisation. It could be a 21st Century take on Albert Ayler’s or John Coltrane’s expanded bands. “In Pairs” is the harshest and most intense of the tracks which begins with an Aylerian explosion from the reeds and moves upwards to multiphonic exploration. As the rhythm section vamps below them, one after another of the horns slides into a paroxysm of irregular vibrations, honking scoops and dissected smears. As each moves to the foreground, the other two riff beside him with Shipp’s perceptive chomping also providing the most connective and conscious episodes of theme anchoring.

Parker’s buzzing and stropping double bass vibrations and Hirsh’s ruffs or rattles, as well as sudden pivots to paradiddles or rumbling pops, add to polyphonic interface. Plus the pianist’s fluid underflow adds melodic elements to the improvisations. But like the most profound New Thing documents, it’s the reed work which contribute most to the tracks’ free-form definition. Stacked reed flutter and doits drive the defining andante spawl on the title track. And it’s the exchanges among flute puffs, saxello obbligato and tenor saxophone tongue stretches that unite to define the linear thrust of “Occupation Day”. The latter track demonstrates how a balladic kernel buried within screechy split tones and inflated honks, can be revived as breathy vibrations from one tenor saxophonist in the tune’s final moments. Moderato piano clicks add a lyrical coda.

With motifs such as circular reed tones which dominate the sound field and unexpected yelps and slurring scoops used for additional timbral coloration present, this ad-hoc group has produced a worthy successor to the best saxophone heavy innovations of 1960s-1970s. At the same there are enough contemporary timbral flourishes to confirm the disc isn’t a throwback but a move forward. Plus Shipp and Perelman get to work alongside other musicians of similar exploratory natures.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fruition: 1. Nine 2. Thirteen 3. One 4. Seven 5. Fourteen 6. Two 7. Six 8. Three 9. Four 10. Ten 11. Eleven

Personnel: Fruition: Ivo Perelman (tenor saxophone) and Matthew Shipp (piano)

Track Listing: Alien: 1. Alien Skin 2. Broken Language 3. In Pairs 4. Occupation Day 5., Sentient Sentiment;

Personnel: Alien: Chad Fowler (stritch, saxello); Zoh Amba (tenor saxophone, flute); Ivo Perelman (tenor saxophone); Matthew Shipp (piano); William Parker (bass) and Steve Hirsh (drums)