Ivo Perelman – Kindred Spirits and Spiritual Prayers [TrackList follows] – Leo Records CD LR 840/841 and CD LR 842, Kindred Spirts (2-CD): 49:56, 47:19; Spiritual Prayers 56:24 [both 8/24/18] ****:
Kindred Spirits: Ivo Perelman – tenor saxophone, co-producer; Rudi Mahall – bass clarinet
Spiritual Prayers: Ivo Perelman – tenor saxophone, co-producer; Jason Stein – bass clarinet
Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman is an adventurous jazz artist always searching for the next challenge. He’s got almost 100 albums as a leader. Nearing 60 years of age, Perelman shows no desire to slow himself and his creative endeavors. Earlier this year, Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp issued the three-disc, free-form project Oneness. This summer, Perelman released two albums on the same day which have similar aspects. The 2-CD Kindred Spirits (Leo Records) pairs Perelman with bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall (a German who has performed with Lee Konitz, Paul Lovens, Kenny Wheeler and a host of others). The single disc Spiritual Prayers (also Leo Records) unites Perelman with American bass clarinetist Jason Stein (credits include Charles Rumback, Rob Mazurek, Ken Vandermark and more modern jazz performers).
The nexus for this pair of pairings occurred in 2017 when Perelman opted to try collaborating with bass clarinetists. Perelman’s plan was for complete improvisation: no written or notated music, no prearranged compositions, no tempo indications. One other condition: the bass clarinetists had to use their bass clarinet exclusively as their primary instruments in their careers. The choices were limited so the list was short. Perelman met Stein and Mahall less than a day before they strode into Parkwest studios in Brooklyn, NY in June 2018 (Mahall and Perelman taped their music first; Stein and Perelman did their material five days later). Perelman explains, “Playing with another reed instrument opens up so many possibilities.” Part of this is the mutual connections between tenor sax and bass clarinet. Both are single-reed wind instruments, in the same key (B-flat), and they can navigate a similar timbral area. They also have parallels in fingering, articulation and embouchure.
In keeping with the recordings’ fully improvisational facet there are no titles for the tracks. On Kindred Spirits there are five lengthy tracks on disc one (which range from six minutes to 13 minutes long) and seven pieces on disc two (from under three minutes to over 12 minutes long). Mahall studied classical music in his younger days and now embraces European avant-garde. Thus, he conveys a modernist tone as well as a confident sophistication, despite moments when things get feverish when he and Perelman abandon or throw away melodic, lyrical or straightforward jazz elements. When Perelman soars upwards on his tenor sax to shift into higher-register physicality, Mahall aims for the same degree of deftness. A few tracks on the first disc reveal this cohesion, such as the 7:23 opening cut as well as the epic 12-minute third track. Although both Mahall and Perelman are steeped in outsider jazz, they both share an inherent perception of jazz customs and history. For example, even at the most chaotic instances there is a link to a melody which lies beneath the exterior music. It’s a shared knowledge or vision which can point to the past and the future at the same time.
Some listeners might assume Stein’s bass clarinet would have a comparable tonality to Mahall’s. Superficially, yes; but Stein represents the Chicago school of improvisational abundance, with more sweeping timbre and a coarser sound quality than Mahall. On several pieces on the 56-minute, eight-track Spiritual Prayers—like the 6:50 opener—Perelman and Stein demonstrate a boldness and non-categorization where their music is very much go-anywhere and try-anything. Throughout Spiritual Prayers Stein provides quick-paced musical tones, sometimes supplying a semblance of counterpoint and other times offering textbook harmonic confluence with the tenor sax.
It’s exciting and fascinating to perceive how Perelman can perform with no preparation and instantly discover ways to interlock with another performer, regardless of the instrument. Somehow, Perelman has an uncanny ability to acquire the precise musical partners he needs for his disparate ventures, and that helps denote why and how Kindred Spirits and Spiritual Prayers both are some of the finest, wholly-improvised jazz anyone will hear this year.
CD 1: Parts 1-5
CD 2: Parts 1-7