Suite for Helen F.
Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman's latest, Suite for Helen F. (Boxholder) pays tribute to abstract-expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler. Perelman is himself a painter. His work bears a passing resemblance to Frankenthaler's, only instead of using Frankenthaler's beloved oils Perelman favors acrylic paint, a material notable for its lack of subtlety-the precise quality that defines Perelman's tenor playing: an in-your-face compilation of every extreme tonal device known to the saxophone.
To his credit, Perelman is adept at reaching and maintaining a high level of intensity, but once he reaches it his playing rests almost entirely on a plateau of upper-register squeals and squawks. Here he pairs a couple of superb bassists (Dominic Duval and Mark Dresser) and drummers with whom they've had long-standing relationships (Jay Rosen and Gerry Hemingway). The four men play well together, but not well enough to rescue Perelman from himself. Occasionally he drops into the middle register and plays an attractive line or two (certain moments of "Part 4," for instance), but for the most part Perelman deals in harsh, blinding color-listening to his tenor playing is the aural equivalent of staring at the sun. Among its faults, the program is unnecessarily long; in the age of 70-plus minute CDs, a two-disc set is overkill.