Ivo Perelman With Strings…Again

cover FSR 14

awardPERELMAN-ARCADO TRIO: Resonance 1. Resonance 2. Resonance 3. Resonance 4 / Ivo Perelman, t-sax; Arcado String Trio: Mark Feldman, vln; William H. Roberts, cel; Mark Dresser, bs / Fire Records FSR 14

The intrepid free jazz saxist Ivo Perelman has recorded with strings previously, but he enjoyed the experience so much that he has chosen to make yet another album in this vein. But for those who expect “jazz with strings” to sound like Charlie Parker’s or Clifford Brown’s recordings are in for a shock. This “string trio” does not play together as a unit; rather, they are discrete voices, the bassist acting as counterpoint and the violinist and cellist playing roles as soloists, generally reacting to what Perelman is playing.

And here I must give kudos to Perelman. In a couple of his previous sax-with-string recordings, I got the impression that he was merely splattering notes in the hopes that some of them would cohere into recognizable structures, but here he makes a real effort to produce free jazz that is based on at least something. Yes, the music is still atonal and thus will upset the sensibilities of those who dislike that genre, but there are real melodic lines interspersed here with his outside playing, and it is these melodic lines that the violinist and cellist are responding to in addition to the occasional upper register squeals. As for bassist Mark Dresser, he responds to how he feels the rhythmic pulse in Perelman’s lines. These are scarcely played in regular metric blocks, but an often changing and shifting rhythm. How on earth he managed to play coherently considering the completely improvised nature of this music mystifies me, but manage it he does. At times, as at around the seven-minute mark in Resonance 1,  he plays bowed bass, joining violinist Mark Feldman in an atonal string duo, but most of the time he is playing pizzicato in the manner of a traditional jazz bassist.At the 11:45 mark, the three strings suddenly coalesce to play together, briefly, as a unit as Perelman sits and listens before responding. Here, it is the saxist who is reacting to what the strings are playing, not the other way round, and the effect is quite interesting.

Resonance 2 opens with short, terse motifs by Perelman but, again, not so far out that nothing substantive can be made of them. On the contrary, the three strings find a way to create something momentarily beautiful around Perelman’s playing, and the saxist responds with some surprisingly rhapsodic phrases before moving into upper harmonics, at which point the strings respond in kind. In this piece, there almost seems to be no real “pulse” at all; time is suspended while the four soloists find little spaces and cracks in each others’ playing to create an interesting web of sound. About halfway through, the strings begin playing short upward motifs before moving into some strange distorted sounds on the strings; interestingly, Perelman responds by playing warm, almost Ben Webster-like sounds in his lower register, as if trying to pull the string trio back to some form of normalcy—which he does. Yet at around 7:05, the music doubles in tempo and becomes really frantic, though all four musicians seem well equipped to handle this and not let the music descend into chaos until the very end, and then on purpose. It is a remarkable tour-de-force.

Resonance 3 begins with the bassist playing edgy bowed chords while one or both of the other strings seem to be hitting their instruments with their bows. When Perelman enters, he is wild and a bit chaotic, but suddenly Feldman starts playing slower, more lyrical figures on his violin which pulls Perelman’s fangs in…music that tames the savage saxophone! At 3:05, as the strings become a bit more hectic, Perelman remains lyrical, but eventually gives up and joins the crowd. One of the interesting things about this track in particular, even more so than the previous ones, is how each of the four instruments seem to be playing off the resonance created by the others (hence, possibly, the title of this CD). It’s not just that they are exchanging musical ideas, but also sound quality, blending the two together to create a sort of new third sound in which both dwell. At one point (6:58), it almost sounds as if Feldman were tuning up his violin, though he is really just trying to provide chromatic chords to act as resonance to what Perelman is playing.

At the opening of Resonance 4, it is just the string trio that is playing, with a sort of calypso beat, in rhythmic counterpoint to one another; at one point, Feldman plays his violin like a ukulele before Perelman enters, very high in his tenor range, playing strange little figures with an opposing rhythm. The violin responds with some bizarre downward glissandi¸ starting very high up and coming down almost like a dive bomber. Eventually, Perelman begins playing abstract double-time figures to which the strings have no real answer—they just fill in around them for a while. Perelman then alternates between short lyrical motifs and atonal rhythmic ones before Feldman plays an extended violin solo with his trio-mates creating rhythmic polyphony around him. I doubt that most classical or jazz radio stations will be playing this disc—it’s far too strange for that—but I found it fascinating, exhilarating music. At 7:25 the quartet indulges in some wild, fast-paced jazz counterpoint that simply has to be heard to be believed.

Indeed, I think this is very close to being the most creative and fascinating jazz album of the year!

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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