Far-Outside Jazz from Perelman & Mahall

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KINDRED SPIRITS / Untitled extempore improvisations / Ivo Perelman, t-sax; Rudi Mahall, bs-cl / Leo Records CDLR 840/41

Two and a half years ago, when this blog was still young and reaching out to readers, I took the plunge and reviewed a really interesting and far-out album by Ivo Perelman and the Sirius Quartet. As it turned out, this was one of a series of 18 jazz CDs that Perelman made with members of the string family, and now he is turning his attention towards playing wholly improvised duets with bass clarinetists. This 2-disc set with Rudi Mahall is the first of these.

Trying to describe Perelman’s style isn’t as easy as one may think. It would be easy, but not accurate, to pigeonhole him as one of those outside-jazz squawkers who just play random notes in order to impress those who know very little about music and/or wow his audiences. But Perelman is much more than that. He is a solid musician who understands structure, no matter how outré his playing seems to be. Outside jazz it may be, but unstructured slop it is not. His pieces, improvised into being, have direction and structure, no matter how wild they may sound. Perelman has a deep understanding of melodic and harmonic construction; he simply chooses to take them to their furthest limits in his playing. In this respect he is much more like Lennie Tristano than like Cecil Taylor. His music can be understood by the musically educated listener.

Which is not to say that it is predictable or, at times, even likeable. Perelman and his cohort on this set, Rudi Mahall, push each other through lyrical and jagged musical lines, mostly the latter, as they move from piece to piece. Recorded in a studio, there is little ambience; the two instruments are miked fairly closely, and the result is a set that jumps out of your speakers with the force of two reed juggernauts. Yet once one adjusts to their musical aesthetic, the music becomes irresistible to listen to. It is like watching two great abstract painters compete with and complement each other on the same canvas. Sometimes they play similar figures, sometimes they contrast with each other. I was stunned by Mahall’s ability, at times, to extend the range of his instrument into the “real” clarinet register. At first I thought it was Perelman playing up that high, but then I heard the tenor sax behind him. But don’t be so quick to judge, for at times it is Perelman who flies up into the soprano sax register while Mahall burps along genially in his normal low register.

The music is so dense that your ears do need a breather. I suggest taking a 10-minute intermission after the first CD. Yes, there is at least one piece on each of the two CDs that I feel go too far, sounding like Albert Ayler on LSD, and these put me off; but the rest of the album is really terrific, with some pieces sounding like modern classical music. Recommended to the adventurous!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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