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Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Bendito of Santa Cruz

Having seen Perelman’s name around I was pleased to get the chance to check him out, and have found him to be a rewarding purveyor of the post-Coltrane-Ayler tenor tradition. I must say, by way of clearing the air, that I’m at a loss to explain why he has impressed some quarters (G. Schuller for one) as forcefully as he has. Perelman is, on the evidence of these three releases, an excellent player, but to call him the most exciting new thing in years you have to have been sleeping in class when the modern tenor roll was called. Surely he would be embarrassed at the implication that he’s operating on a much higher ground than Dewey Redman’s best (I’ll refrain from listing another twenty names; Dewey’s case is so open-and-shut as to make the point without going further.)

So much for my reaction to this guy’s press; fortunately there’s real fire behind all the smoke. While not exactly breaking new ground (which may be impossible at this point) Perelman is a very convincing player.

He manages to hold the attention of the listener even though he operates at a feverishly high pitch of intensity most of the time. His interpretation of the contemporary tenor lexicon is personal, very emotional, and at times full of surprises. Of these releases the most recommendable is “Seeds”, where Dominic Duval’s bass and Jay Rosen’s drums consistently push the saxophonist into unexpected areas. Duval’s electronic experiments and his spooky arco work are noteworthy, and Rosen shows again how much room there is for originality in the free universe. An excellent record.

The Duo with pianist Shipp is just as good, though the duo format is a bit more demanding, for players and listeners alike. The material ranges from Ayler-like ditties to an abstraction of “Get Happy” to thick sonic outbursts. The flexible Shipp can build impressionistic chords, spin out lightning-fast abstractions that are too airily original to evoke Cecil, or even hit two-handed “dischords” on the beat for nine minutes without being unmusical (“Macumba”). His great solo and the magic ending of “Roses” make it a favorite track, and Shipp deserves some national attention himself. There are a few tracks that don’t grab me yet, but most of this compares well with Ibrahim/Barbieri, Weston/Murray, or any piano/sax duo.

The set with Parker and Ali must have been a gas to see live. This almost unbearably intense improv fades in and out (so was presumably even longer), and the two rhythm masters are in wonderful form. Ali is still underrated after all these years, and Parker’s playing makes one think of Baraka’s line about Jimmy Garrison surely being able to rip safes open with his bare fingers. But it’s hard to keep focused for the duration. “Seeds” is more varied and, I think, more successful as a trio record.

Originally Published