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Ivo Perelman Quartet : The Hour of the Star

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Ivo Perelman’s new album, The Hour of the Star, is a musical response to Clarice Lispector’s expository novella of the same name. The final and best-known of the Brazilian writer’s works, The Hour of the Star is a bleak, self-conscious allegory about a poor, unattractive woman’s confrontations with life and death. The tenor saxophonist’s disc isn’t so much a soundtrack to the story-a low hum with occasional scrapes would sound more appropriate-as a starting point.

Despite the subject matter, the record isn’t all gloom and doom. Perelman, a Brazilian himself who moved to the United States in the 1980s, has assembled a cast of free-improv all-stars for the occasion: pianist Matthew Shipp, drummer Gerald Cleaver and Joe Morris, who is best known as a guitarist but plays bass here. (It’s half-accurate to call this a quartet: Shipp plays on four of the six tracks, and one of them is a duet with the leader.) The group announces itself on “A Tearful Tale” via staccato sax notes, spiky chords and a skittish rhythm section. Perelman soon clusters his notes into bursts, bending the longer ones that end each phrase. Here, and again on the title track, Perelman’s declarations grow increasingly anguished as the tune wears on.

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