Monday, February 13, 2023

DL Review Part 10: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, With Colin Stetson

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn 

Part Ten - With Colin Stetson

Think fast - you have the chance to play a contrabass saxophone. What do you do? Imitate Adrian Rollini's style of '20s jazz, or the version of it that was recreated, was some surrealism, by Roger Ruskin Spear and Rodney Slater in the Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band? 

No. You go for the low HONNNNNNNNNNNK and see how many people are blown across the room. You want to be Anthony Braxton. Or Roscoe Mitchell. Or - God help us all - Borbetomagus.

Or you're Colin Stetson.

To clarify (meaning, the placate any quibblers), most of the gentleman mentioned above played the Bass Saxophone. Mr. Stetson plays the contrabass saxophone. He also plays the tubax, a slightly more portable version of the contra- version, which was invented at the end of the 20th century. 

Another thing to clarify is that anyone thinking they can immediately create a thunderous honk on the big horn better have a lot of wind power of their own. I have a feeling that the act of making that monster wail isn't easy too easy.

Which is why Stetson's performance with Ivo Perelman is so fascinating. His technique is such that he seems to let sounds ricochet through the inside of his bell as they make their way out. He also unleashes a flurry of rapid finger flutters over the keys, making his instrument sound downright lithe. This all comes after both saxophonists open the track ("2") with two high pitched wails that will knock you across the room, and Stetson immediately pulls back to create waves of sound that imitate guitar feedback.

A low-bottom instrument like Stetson's could easily take on the role of a bass guitar and set up a riff that adds some foundation to a free improvisation. That happens in "1" but Stetson also sounds like he's trying to catch up with Perelman's tenor, which is blowing rapidly in the other channel, like he's several steps ahead of the bigger horn. Riffs surface in a few other tracks and Stetson even sounds a bit like some icy synth noises ("5") as well. This particular track sounds pretty free, with both players blowing for keeps, but the way they play has a clear, forward motion to it. 

All that analysis of Stetson does not mean that he overshadows Perelman's tenor. True, there are moments where our host acts like the straight man, playing at a low volume, waiting for something big to come along. But he rides his partner's waves of sound, never staying in one place long enough to get predictable. If his tenor gets hysterical, it quickly calms back down. After the session's wild ride, "6" closes on a slow, pensive note, which still includes moments that are almost bluesy and rather dark. But the subdued tone impresses, especially after what precedes it.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

DL Review: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, Part Nine - With Joe McPhee

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Nine - With Joe McPhee

One thing that hasn't been heard on any of the sessions of Reed Rapture up to this point is the human voice. That all changes when Ivo Perelman teams up with Joe McPhee. Along with their two tenors, both of them add some vocalizing on a few tracks. 

While McPhee begins "2" by alternating deep breaths and soft moans through his horn, Perelman evokes Patty Waters. The impressive part of it comes when he seamlessly shifts from voice to tenor. (It sounded like he didn't have the horn in his mouth initially, if the hard consonant noises were any indication.) McPhee alternates some throaty growls with rootsy blowing here, but his big vocal moment comes in "5," where he also recreates some horn wails with his human voice, full of heavy vibrato. Previous to that, in "4," Perelman seems torn between blowing and verbally expressing his enthusiasm for the rugged meeting of the minds. For McPhee, the feeling is mutual. These moments are brief sections of the whole session but they add a distinct wrinkle to the tracks. 

The seven tracks have plenty of free blowing going on, but that's balanced out by moments of restraint and riffs.  "6" with a lick that's downright boppish. In a few cases, McPhee is the one setting up a groove. He plays a slow, two-note riff in "3" that comes across like a funeral ballad, which Perelman uses as a foundation for a mix of high shrieks, low chants and exploration in the middle range. It might be ominous but it's soulful too.

After Perelman plays solo for nearly two minutes, McPhee takes that as a cue to join him in "7.". Both begin with a low down sound that's closer to Ben Webster than their Albert Ayler. McPhee sticks close to a spiritual or bluesy idea - at one point moaning through his horn -  but Perelman runs all over the place. They could have competed for wildest growls but they already did that in "4." Here, they seem interested in contrasts. The results make a strong ending to this summit meeting.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

DL Review: Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, Part Eight - Jon Irabagon

Yes, I'm going to do it. I'm going to get through all 12 sessions of Reed Rapture in Brooklyn. I realize there's been too much time off between entries. Winter Jazz Fest had nothing to do with that. I didn't go this year, partially because of the idea of being around a crap ton of people in a big city after having COVID a month earlier; the other half having to do with holding onto funds to pay for the pressing of my album. Here we go again.

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn

Part Eight - With Jon Irabagon

What a difference a session makes. When we last left our hero, Ivo Perelman was in a deep conversation with James Carter and the duo often sounded like they were playing composed pieces instead of spontaneous works. For this installment, Perelman teams up with that talented scalawag with the artillery of rare and unusual saxophones, Jon Irabagon. Together, their collective ideas move in a different direction, running loose and free instead of looking for form. I refer to him as a scalawag because once he gets going on some pee-wee horn, he really goes for the gusto, even if it means blowing static. His technique does indeed extend, and his chops are right there to deliver something substantial. 

Irabagon is credited with sopranino and slide soprano saxophones, the latter of which sounds like yet another rare horn that he has uncovered, following the mezzo-soprano saxophone. While "sliding" isn't exactly the first word that describes his playing here, he does spend a lot of time in the upper register of his horns, which inspires Perelman to employ some high harmonics on his tenor to meet his comrade somewhere close. This happens in the first track, when Irababon locks into a series of high-pitched repetitive figures, and Perelman follows suit.

All seven tracks move along amorphously, never sticking to a particular shape but living in the moment before veering off. While one track nearly hits the 10-minute mark, most are closer to five, with the wildest blasts of freedom coming in the climax of "6," which is a compact 2:47. "4" begins with Perelman entering in a low growl while Irabagon simply blows air thorough his horn. Things get whiney but they also briefly hit upon a melody that feels inspired by both the blues and a synagogue cantor.  In a different track, Irabagon approximates a feeling of pain, a flute and, a few minutes later, a fleet of angry gosling falling out of his horn. 
It feels significant to note that throughout all of this, Perelman sticks with just one saxophone, his tried and true tenor. The choice always acts as a proud indicator that anything all of these other guys can do with a couple horns, he can match on one. And he's right.