Thursday, January 19, 2023

DL Review: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, Part Seven - With James Carter

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Seven - With James Carter

James Carter has often strikes me as a saxophonist with a whole lot of ideas who wants to get them all out there in record time. He plays has a gifted sense of melody and speed, and he often straddles a rich line with some manic honks and wails, alternating between straightforward and overcharged. So he seems like a great partner for Ivo Perelman.

So it might sound contradictory that part seven of Reed Rapture In Brooklyn feels in some ways like the most composed of the two-reed sessions so far. In the track "7," it almost sounds like Perelman and Carter (who plays baritone sax on all nine duets) are playing variations on "It Ain't Necessarily So." If not that, it sounds like some testifying blues, where Carter plays a line and Perelman's tenor echoes his sentiment.

The duo loves moving through dynamic shifts rapidly. "2" alone runs all over the place, beginning with Perelman blowing air through his horn and unwrapping a dreamy melody with some old-time vibrato as Carter builds a foundation. Before long, the two of them are honking with enthusiasm, but that dies down quickly too. Carter's baritone sustains some rich tones and when Perelman follows suit, the effect is almost Ellingtonian. One track later, they getting wrapped up in Bach-like counterpoint. 

But the moments that imply structure most often come when Carter gets some funk going on his horn. Throughout the session, he pulls out some fat riffs that sound right at home in the baritone's low register. Sometimes he might be going through changes in his mind as he takes a six-note riff and modulates with it ("5"). When he goes into some rapid arpeggios, Perelman opts for a restrained bit of vibrato action that eventually goes wild. The tenor man seems like he's surrendering the floor to Carter in "4," adding just a few peeps, but before long they're in close formation, trading lines together.

There are many tea kettle moments, where they both unleash some vicious squeals that could tear down walls. Like a lot of what they duo does here, moments like this are fleeting, acting as a bridge to another sonic twist. But even the more intense moments are enough to make you sit up, listen and realize how quickly these two line up together.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

DL Review: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture in Brooklyn, Part Six - With Roscoe Mitchell

This marks the half-way point, through Ivo Perelman's set of 12 duets. 

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Six - With Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell had recently retired from teaching at Mills College when he spoke to me in 2019, in anticipation of his appearance at the Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert. Once his post-retirement life had settled down, he said, I want to get to the point where I can practice one note the whole all day." Saxophonists and longtime Mitchell fans can understand such focus; non-musicians might be left scratching the head. 

But the value of this discipline comes across around 18 minutes into "2," his duet with Ivo Perelman. As Perelman's tenor bobs around, peeling off an especially ecstatic line just moments prior, Mitchell locks into one note on his bass saxophone and holds it for 60 seconds. Relatively speaking, it's a low note, though it's probably mid-range on the big horn. The impact of the drone (and a few overtones early on) feels electrifying. It takes us to the core of the music, setting a path for what follows. Who knows if Mitchell did have the time to devote a day to a note in the few years between our talk and this session, but the energizing value of this discipline can be felt. 

Mitchell and Perelman's session yielded just three tracks but "2" alone lasts nearly 40 minutes. The other two add an additional 20 minutes, providing about the same amount of music that have come in the other Reed Rapture sessions. Mitchell, who has been playing a lot of soprano and sopranino with the Art Ensemble of Chicago recently, sticks exclusively to bass sax here. It gives the music a foundation by virtue of its range, providing something of a tonal center at various times. In "1," he almost gets a groove going after notes popped to the surface in a somewhat spare, pointillistic duet with Perelman's tenor. Perelman pulls back to a whisper during "3" giving Mitchell a chance to ruminate on the horn. 

"2" is really the centerpiece, where the duo get to know each other. They take their time deciding where they wants to go and how they'll get there, without any lag time. As they gradually move towards a climax in the final five minutes, Mitchell's horn almost sounds like he's plugged into a fuzz box. When Perelman joins him, they buzz like a hornet's nest. From there, they engage in a cat-and-mouse chase, with Perelman jumping into the upper register. 

Roscoe Mitchell's work often deals with open space and how that can be as meaningful as the moments where everyone joins in. Some of the former approach is on display here. He often prefers single, lengthy notes to extended lines. (That could be the nature of the bass sax again, but Mitchell does kick it up at times too.) His partner strikes a good balance between going with that flow and riding the top wave created by the low horn. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

DL Review: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture in Brooklyn, Part Five - With Ken Vandermark

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Five - With Ken Vandermark

Calling Reed Rapture In Brooklyn a series of duets by Ivo Perelman with 12 different saxophonists is turning out to be a tad inaccurate. Although all the guests have spent time with Adolphe Sax's brilliant invention, some of them don't use it here. Two reviews ago, David Murray stuck to his bass clarinet rather than his tenor. And on this section of the album, Chicago multi-reedist Ken Vandermark is content to spend 40+ minutes on the old licorice stick, the B-flat clarinet, rather than his tenor or baritone saxophone. (Looking ahead, I have no idea what Joe McPhee will be playing and I might just wait to find out when I spin their tracks.)

The dozen tracks capture Perelman (on tenor as always) and Vandermark sounding like they're having a blast. They begin by exploring the space between each other, throwing short bursts of sound into the air, playing clipped notes before laying into longer tones. Moreso than any of the previous pairings, the duo frequently sounds so in tune with each other that they could be working from compositions. Vandermark lays down a foundation in "2," stating whole notes that feel a little lonely. Perelman answers in a tone that feels a little majestic (more proof that he has roots that go back to straightahead players) and a little playful as he delivers some mid-range lines.  

They move along parallel lines in "5" but their paths recall the way Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell made disparate lines blend together in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. When they land on the same pitch simultaneously, you have to wonder if it was intuition, good ears or a pre-destined plan. Regardless, the spark can be felt between them.

Vandermark and Perelman cut loose often during the set too, blowing wild, but in tandem. Clarinet spurts combine with runs all over the tenor. Sometimes they move at a rapid pace, knowing the right moment to go from mid-range pirouettes to upper register shrieks. 

One of the more fascinating elements to this duo is the way both of them seem to know how long each performance should be. A few of the tracks last between four and six minutes, but several come in around the two-minute mark. In many, Vandermark and Perelman reach a climax together, ending  on a sharp cluster here and a gentle, lower pitch there. Both of them seem interested in playing in a manner that works to best serve the project. That description sounds obvious - and it probably is - but that is not always so blatant while listening to free improvisation. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

DL Review: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, Part Four - With Lotte Anker

While I'm not sticking to a set time schedule, I'm continuing my listening journey through Ivo Perelman's set of 12 duets with different saxophonists. 

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Four - With Lotte Anker 

The first three duet sessions in Reed Rapture In Brooklyn paired the Brazilian tenor man up with some players who frequent different jazz scenes, so to speak, than Perelman. Tim Berne is no stranger to pure improvisation, but Joe Lovano and David Murray, perhaps in terms of their longevity and output, represented some wild card pairings. The performances that feature alto and soprano saxophonist Lotte Anker feels more like a meeting of kindred spirits, two players coming together more as avant peers. 

Whether or not it's the case, Anker and Perelman play like longtime friends with similar ideas. This example comes in the first track (again, there are no titles, only numbers) when Anker hints at a particularly frenzied pitch and Perelman jumps right onto that same pitch seconds later. It galvanizes both of them, lifting the energy of the performance. On this track, Anker's alto tone recalls the pungent attack of Anthony Braxton: she's gravelly and scrappy, forcing notes from her horn in a deep breath, turning them into feedback when they crash to the surface. 

When the duo dips into the upper registers of their respective horns, they aren't content to merely hold onto a long tone for dear life. "2" is marked by a flurry of fast-moving notes that sound like birds. As they accelerate, it sounds like more birds have joined the flock. One track later, Anker's soft squeaks on soprano feel almost soothing, leading to a section where Perelman echoes her notes almost like a canon.

Moments of wild shrieks pop up throughout the session, but the duo also has a fondness for ending several improvisations with a natural decrescendo. Sometimes it must be hard to tell whether an improv should keep going or stuff. These two appear to have an instinctual ability to sense when the time is right to stop, and how to do it. 

After concluding "5" that way, they begin the next track in the same mood. Perelman reveals the scope of his musical knowledge by playing low and smoky at first, almost like a swing player or, to be more accurate, a disgruntled balladeer who fights a battle between angst and sentimentality as he blows. During this 11-minute track - the longest of their set - Anker appears to echo him in a way that makes the music sound like a close conversation. 

All of this could be incorrect conjecture about Perelman and Anker. Maybe they are old friends. Maybe they talked extensively before the session about their musical philosophies. Regardless of how much preparation they made, it yielded some great saxophone discussions here. 

Monday, January 02, 2023

DL Review - Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, Part 3 - With David Murray

Yes, I know it's upside down. 
This way you won't see the same exact image 12 times

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Three - With David Murray

The combination of Ivo Perelman and David Murray feels like one of the most anticipated sections of this 12-duet set. Murray has really made a career out of never staying in the same musical place for too long. He is just as likely to play in a more traditional setting - tearing it up in the process - as he is playing in a freer situation, having worked with trios, octets, big bands, not to forget an organ quartet, the Gwo Ka Masters and the World Saxophone Quartet. 

Murray is also a master improvisor who can pile on chorus after chorus, building each time from what he has already played. Years before saxophonist James Brandon Lewis came up with his Molecular Systematic Music idea, I sat transfixed at a David Murray show, imagining the path of his solo looking like one of those DNA models that twists around as it moves upward. The base of it always connected but it evolved at it stretched up. Too bad Lewis went public with his idea first. The only people who ever heard my theory were friends at the bar. Though it was funny to hear one friend, who understood what I implied, suggesting that you could direct your bandmates's solos by yelling, "Use the DNA approach."

Anyway, the idea of Murray getting together for a purely spontaneous meeting with this Brazilian raconteur feels intriguing, with myriad possibilities.

For openers, Murray throws a curveball. He left his tenor saxophone in the case, or at home, and plays nothing but bass clarinet during his ten improvisations with Perelman. This proves to be a positive though, due to Murray's skill on the instrument. Along with his harmonic chops, his slap-tonguing technique makes it double as a percussive instrument, virtually making him alternating parts of a rhythm section, in addition to harmony. Sometimes he approximates a bass marimba, which gingerly switches between the role of an accompanist to Perelman's relatively grounded improvisation and a leader, bouncing ideas off the accompanying tenor.

Things get playful in "3," where Murray sticks closely to an arpeggio melody, with Perelman adding color as it moves forward, making it proceed like a soundtrack piece to a suspenseful scene. When Murray launches "4" with a guttural wail, Perelman takes that cue to slide off and back on to the rails, having stayed rather calm until then. "5" builds off a groovy, descending blues riff from Murray (which, to be really obscure, also resembles the David Bowie instrumental "Sense of Doubt"). Of course, before they're done, they both take turns hitting the upper register from some shrieks of joie de vivre. 

Hopefully, this won't be the only documented meeting of these two masters.