Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp – Oneness– Leo 

by | Mar 19, 2018 | Jazz CD Reviews

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp – Oneness– Leo 

Musical collaboration and communication of the highest order.

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp – Oneness – Leo CD LR 823/825 (3-CDs), 49:24, 49:06, 43:52 [3/2/18] *****:

(Ivo Perelman – tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp – piano)

How does one select the best of the best? As tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp have discovered, that’s nearly impossible. The concept behind the duo recording, Oneness, was for the two long-time musical allies to go into a studio—in this case, five days at Parkwest studios in Brooklyn in September 2017—and then pick the best material and release a single CD. When Shipp and Perelman listened to their completely spontaneous tunes— no predetermined themes, structures or tempos—they faced a conundrum. “The idea was to get just one CD, the best of the very best,” Shipp explains in the album’s liner notes. “But then we listened to these recordings and said, ‘We can’t do that: we can’t choose.’” The result? A three-CD boxed set of close to 2.5 hours of music which is the definitive statement of Shipp and Perelman’s enduring musical partnership. The two artists’ failure to compile a single disc is the listeners’ boon: 33 cuts, ranging from just over one minute to over seven minutes. Those who devote time with the tracks might try to opt for single ones which stand out. Instead, these pieces—which run from invigorating to recuperative and from ecstatic to moody—should be experienced in one lengthy swoop.

Perelman and Shipp’s artistic alliance extends back more than two decades. They initially met on Perelman’s 1996 outing, Carma De Terra. The chemistry and connectedness was immediate. Since then, they have released eight previous albums as a pair; they have performed together in numerous set-ups with other musicians on approximately 30 records. And they have logged many hours on stage. Oneness, however, marks a specific point which may never be repeated. “This is it,” Perelman admits. “I can’t see us making another duo recording in the near future. The process was so intense. It’s what it was, but at a higher degree, and now I need to take a rest. For now, there’s nothing more to say.” The good news is that Shipp and Perelman plan to continue doing concerts together.

Some think of free improvisation as too abstract and uninhibited. Yet, these duets are anything but difficult to enjoy. They have character and a purpose, and achieve emotional context, show strong musical forms and include patterns or approaches which draw people in rather than push them away. Part of this is due to the duo’s method of illuminating the ‘third mind’ (popularized by author William S. Burroughs and artist Brion Gysin), which refers to a philosophy of how two minds creating at a high level may fashion a ‘third mind’ which connects the first two but transcends them. Thus, the CD title, Oneness. This music is an assemblage of likeminded improvisations, not a straightforward collection of tunes. If listeners spend a concentrated period hearing this music, an evident impression surfaces: a mostly controlled, deliberate physicality. There are infrequent moments of turmoil and there is always a sense Shipp and Perelman know precisely where they are and where they are going next. The pair’s comfortable confidence provides stability even though there is an unknown pathway. It’s unquestionably not effortless or easy to make such extemporaneous artistry seem instinctive.

There is much to appreciate, including Perelman’s uncommon expertise of his saxophone’s higher register as well as his expressive and oftentimes flexible pureness. Shipp is also magnificent during many passages as he crafts motifs or phrases which acutely reiterate, but are never repetitive. The way the twosome communicate is highly inventive but is not unsettling. Shipp deftly employs avant-garde touches alongside neo-classical features which impart an older/contemporary verve, while Perelman courses from unpredicted quietness with sweeping, long horn lines to instances when he supplies rousing and muscled tenor releases. CD one is replete with unperturbed overtones, while CD two has some unconstrained selections where Shipp and Perelman generate twisting mini-tempests. CD three continues the tour-de-force improvisation with music which has both a cyclical configuration and free-flowing alterations and imaginative interchanges.

While Oneness is a magnum opus, it’s certainly not the end-all. A few follow-ups to Shipp and Perelman’s 2015 musical collaboration, The Art of the Duo, remain unissued and hopefully will see the light of day. And each time the two perform in gigs, there is the possibility of a live recording. Perelman remarks, “Maybe one day we’ll go and actually get the very best of the very best. Other than that, I think we accomplished our mission.”


CD 1
Parts 1-11

CD 2
Parts 1-10

CD 3
Parts 1-12

—Doug Simpson

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