Ivo Perelman’s “Shamanism”

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PERELMAN-MORRIS-SHIPP: Prophets and Healers. Shamanism. Spirit World. Trance. Altered States of Consciousness. Spiritual Energies. One Who Knows. Divination. Supernatural Faith. Religious Ecstasy / Ivo Perelman, t-sax; Joe Morris, el-gt; Matthew Shipp, pno / Mahakala Music MAHA 009, available for download at Bandcamp

Avant-garde tenor saxist Ivo Perelman is celebrating his having reached 100 albums by releasing three new ones. Shamanism is one of these.

Recorded in Brooklyn during April 2018, this collection, scheduled for release in early November, features his frequent musical partner Matthew Shipp on piano along with Joe Morris on electric guitar.

Much to my surprise, the opening selection, Prophets and Healers, opens with Shipp playing a fairly consonant musical line, but soon branches out into more advanced chords. Yet immediately in the second track, Shamanism, we are plunged into a complex, atonal, polyphonic web of sound, with Perelman very high up in his tenor range and Morris jumping all over the place on guitar while Shipp somehow finds a few openings to sprinkle notes in. This is some of the wildest music that Perelman has yet recorded; to my ears, it is more of an ambient experience than a musical construction per se, the notes being sprayed around to see which ones will stick. It’s certainly complex and at times very interesting, even if, inevitably, it really just stays in one place throughout.

By contrast, Spirit World struck me as a real composition with real direction. Taken at a fairly slow tempo, all three musicians give themselves room to stretch out, particularly Perelman whose tone here is surprisingly soft and sensuous, supported by Shipp’s rich chords while Morris finds room to drop his own contributions in here and there.

Although Trance is taken at a quicker tempo and includes some upper-range squeals from Perelman, it, too, has a bit more breathing room than Shamanism and thus allows a certain amount of shape in the music to take place. Altered States of Consciousness is another piano solo, again rather slow and fairly consonant, using the sustain pedal to great effect in its short duration, while Spiritual Energies is another fractured group improv.

One Who Knows opens as a somewhat stately (in tempo) piano-guitar duo before Perelman jumps in. This one seemed to me an extremely thoughtful group improv, with the three musicians really listening to each other and trying to complement whatever lines the others are playing. In the second half, Shipp sets up a gentle rocking rhythm as the other two musicians insert their commentary, and here Perelman, sometimes inexplicably, shoots into high-register squeals that I didn’t feel were appropriate to the mood. Divination is another three-way, shoot-from-the-hip musical conversation. This, in turn, is followed by another wonderful, slow piano piece by Shipp.

The final trio, Religious Ecstasy, may be the finest of them all. Though fast-paced, it is just a shade slower than some of the others, and I really felt that the trio members were, as in the case of Spirit World, really listening to and following what each was doing. This is particularly true of the piano-guitar duo that opens the piece, and although Perelman’s entry goes up again into his high register, he really did a good job of at least complementing what the others were playing.

A very interesting CD, then, with several ups and a few downs.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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