Ivo Perelman – Strings 1 and Strings 2 [TrackList follows] – Leo CD LR 850 and CD LR 851, Strings 1: 72:45; Strings 2 48:58 [both 11/16/18] ****:

Performing Artists:
Strings 1: Ivo Perelman – tenor saxophone, co-producer; Mat Maneri – viola; Mark Feldman, Jason Hwang – violin
Strings 2: Ivo Perelman – tenor saxophone, co-producer; Mat Maneri – viola; Hank Roberts – cello; Ned Rothenberg – bass clarinet (tracks 1, 4, 7, 9)

Ivo Perelman is an exploratory tenor saxophonist who continues to find ways to create new and interesting jazz and improvised music. Perelman has almost 100 albums as a leader and each year he adds to his discography. Earlier this year, Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp put out the three-disc, free-form project Oneness. This summer, Perelman released two CDs on the same day which paired Perelman with two different bass clarinetists. In the fall, Perelman issued two related albums—both came out on November 16—with violist Mat Maneri. The 72-minute Strings 1 is a unique quartet with Perelman, Maneri (who has done studio time with Cecil Taylor, Shipp, Tim Berne and more) and violinists Mark Feldman (he has performed with John Zorn, John Abercrombie, Dave Douglas, Uri Caine and Billy Hart) and Jason Hwang (his background includes Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill and William Parker). The 49-minute Strings 2 is also a distinctive quartet outing with Perelman, Maneri, cellist Hank Roberts (he was in the Bill Frisell Quartet and was a member of an improvisational chamber group with Mark Feldman and Mark Dresser), and guest bass clarinetist Ned Rothenberg (his résumé includes Fred Frith, Elliott Sharp, John Zorn, Evan Parker, Marc Ribot and other forward-thinking musicians).

Strings 1 and Strings 2 are the first of seven recordings which showcase Perelman and Maneri in various settings with additional artists. Typical of Perelman, the strategy was for improvisation: no written or notated music, no prearranged compositions, no tempo indications, no annotations for harmonic movements. The material for Strings 1 was taped in Parkwest studios in Brooklyn, NY in March 2018; the music for Strings 2 was taped in August 2018. The coupling of tenor sax and viola is entrenched in the instruments’ similarities: they share a close written range and tonal coloring in both the lower and higher registers. Perelman also states when he performs with viola, “I start to incorporate the bowing, the instruments’ phrasing, in my own playing.”

Perelman does not have titles for his fully-improvised music. Strings 1 and Strings 2 both have nine pieces which span from one and a half minutes to over 17 minutes long. Due to Perelman’s tendency to fashion a cello-like sound on his tenor sax, Strings 1 is a de facto string quartet, where the sax takes the place of the cello. The viola and violins thrust into dissonant terrain on the 7:13 second track, where Perelman sometimes disappears and leaves the strings to roil away in contrapuntal confrontations, and then he returns to push single sax notes into the agitating amalgam. The nearly 16-minute fourth track has the strings and sax creating darting noises accentuated by both bowing and plucking of strings in a pizzicato style. On the 3:24 eighth tune the strings concoct a percussive characteristic while Perelman again produces a sonorous cello-esque aspect highlighted by his breathy embouchure. Strings 1 concludes with a nine-minute number where the violins and viola interact and counteract in a sometimes conflict-etched soundscape frequently bereft of any sax. When Perelman contributes, he supplies a foundational standpoint which represents a guidepost to the outward-bound strings.

Strings 2 Album CoverStrings 2 has comparable non-traditional and unconventional traits. The difference is that Roberts is on cello and Rothenberg’s bass clarinet is heard on four tracks. Strings 2 is the first time Perelman has interrelated with a standalone cellist, although Perelman has previously teamed up with the Sirius String Quartet (which has three violins and a cello). Perelman’s first instrument was cello, and he confesses, “When there’s a cello there I kind of become a different animal, because I have sentimental values attached to it. Without the cello, I can work without distractions. Throw a cello in there, and it’s something else. The cello just drives me crazy. It’s a powerful thing; the deep, deep sound – it speaks to my soul immediately.” Fortunately, Roberts eschews traditional cello attributes and edges toward both an avant-garde sensibility and—at times—a sublime delicateness. The four cuts with Rothenberg offer a stimulating two-horn viewpoint. The 4:11 opener is an expressive selection where the bass clarinet sometimes acts as the lower-register anchor but other times the strings dip into the bass areas: thus, the piece has a see-sawing semblance. On the 2:45 fourth number there is absorbing harmonic communication between sax and bass clarinet as well as cello and viola. It’s like a four-way dialogue where the instrumental voices sometimes diverge and sometimes meld together. The 3:33 seventh piece has a circular and occasionally juxtaposing layout, where breathy notes from the bass clarinet mingle with ascending and descending strings and kinetic sax. Strings 2 ends with an epic 15:21 improvisation which groups the bass clarinet, tenor sax, cello and viola in several distinguished sections which differ and/or are parallel to each other.

Perelman’s ventures such Strings 1 and Strings 2 display Perelman’s ability to spontaneously perform with no preparation and conceive in-the-moment approaches which unlock myriad channels to craft extemporaneous and varied instrumental configurations. Strings 1 and Strings 2 may not appeal to all jazz fans, but both releases demonstrate and reveal any configuration—strings and sax for example—can be utilized to produce decidedly instinctive and unorthodox music.

Strings 1:
Parts 1-9

Strings 2:
Parts 1-9

—Doug Simpson

Portrait Ivo Perelman

Ivo Perelman