Ivo Perelman Reaches Into Distant & Recent Past,
Exploring Newly Forged Collaboration With
Double Disc Set Available
November 16 via Leo Records
This musical compatibility undergirds two new albums that inaugurate the saxophonist’s latest themed series of recordings. Strings 1 and Strings 2 (available November 16 via Leo Records) are the first of seven recordings, each of which showcases the core unit of Perelman and Maneri but in different settings formed by the addition of other artists. Perelman has previously employed a similar methodology to great success. In 2015, he issued five albums built around his relationship with drummer Gerald Cleaver. In 2016, he presented two separate projects in which he and his most frequent collaborator, pianist Matthew Shipp, welcomed varying combinations of bass, drums, and trumpet. Such projects present Perelman as a sort of experimental scientist, adding and subtracting reagents to affect the results, and they represent the most ambitious segment of his discography.
On Strings 1, Perelman and Maneri are joined by two admired violinists known for their improvisation, Mark Feldman and Jason Hwang. This creates, for all intents and purposes, a string quartet – except for the fact that here, the tenor saxophone stands in for the cello. While this quartet represents a unique grouping, it is nonetheless rooted in the distinct similarities linking the tenor and the cello. They share an almost identical written range and tonal color, from luscious mahogany in the low notes to a sweet chartreuse in the upper register; each instrument is considered the most “vocally” expressive instrument within its respective family. (In fact, you could say that the cello sounds something like a “tenor violin.”) What’s more, Perelman has previously stated his tendency for his saxophone playing to “mutate” in the presence of the violin family, saying, “I start to incorporate the bowing, the instruments’ phrasing, in my own playing.”
“I am particularly in love with this session,” Perelman admits now, “because I was not expecting anything like it at all. I thought that maybe this wouldn’t work, that maybe it was too many high-pitched violins. I never thought I would become the ‘cello’ anchoring it all down.”
As is the case with any Perelman album, the music on Strings 1 sprouts from total spontaneity, created with neither written music nor even any outline regarding themes, tempos, form, or harmonic movement. But the results seem anything but haphazard: motifs arise and spread, counterpoint blinks in and out of existence, and passage after passage raises the question of where improvisation ends and true composition begins.
Perelman has always had a strong affinity for the instruments that make up the violin family. The roots of this predilection extend to his youth: as a child in his native Saõ Paulo, Perelman played cello for several years before he turned to the saxophone, and the instrument still haunts him. As he explains when discussing Strings 2 – which marks his first partnership with a stand-alone cellist (as opposed to an earlier recording with the Sirius String Quartet) – he initially leaned toward excluding the instrument from any of the recordings in the “Strings” series. “When there’s a cello there,” he admits, “I kind of become a different animal, because I have sentimental values attached to it. Without the cello, I can work without distractions. Throw a cello in there, and it’s something else. The cello just drives me crazy. It’s a powerful thing; the deep, deep sound – it speaks to my soul immediately.”
Strings 2 features cellist Hank Roberts, whose extraordinary eclecticism – he has played traditional jazz, folk and country music, rock, and avant-garde improvisation – has allowed him to perform with artists ranging from Gary Burton and Rudy Royston, to Bill Frisell, to Sting, to Julius Hemphill and Tim Berne. Like Maneri, Roberts de-emphasizes traditional praxis in favor of expressivity, sublimating pyrotechnics to achieve an elegant balance of resolve and fragility. Strings 2 also marks Perelman’s first on-disc meeting with Ned Rothenberg, among the admired reed virtuosos in post-freedom improvisation, who plays bass clarinet on four tracks.
This represents another rare occurrence in Perelman’s extensive discography of 100-plus albums: until the 2018 release of Kindred Spirits and Spiritual Prayers, each of which comprised duo improvisations by tenor and bass clarinet, Perelman had previously recorded with another woodwind player only once. “This means so much to my development as an artist,” Perelman has said in describing the experience of working with bass clarinet. By including that instrument, along with the cello (his first great love) and the viola of Mat Maneri (another “kindred spirit”), Perelman has assembled a group that reaches into his distant and recent past to point his art in yet another new direction.