Perelman Plays With Pascal Marzan

MP_D1_SM4200 DEF

DUST OF LIGHT/EARS DRAWING SOUNDS / PERELMAN-MARZAN: Hot Dust-Obscured Galaxies. River Mirroring a Smiling Moon. Bees and Squirrels in the Garden/Two Bees at My Window. Sun Through Closed Eyelids. Ears Drawing Sounds. Dust of Light/Dancing in Shadowed Forests. Swinging Swallows. Conversation In the Wind/Conversation With the Wind. Calling at the Doorway. High Mountain Walk. Reflections. Mysterious Bells / Ivo Perelman, t-sax; Pascal Marzan, gtr / Setola di Maiale/Ibeji SM4200

I found it interesting to learn that Ivo Perelman studied nylon string guitar early in his career, which explains his fondness for the guitar as an instrument. Each of his three most recent releases feature a form of guitar, one of them the Eastern guitar or oud.

Yet the way that Pascal Marzan plays the guitar on this new release has very little relation to the other two albums. Marzan almost seems to approach his instrument as the inside strings of a piano, strumming several of them at once in atonal chords to support the equally atonal playing of Perelman’s tenor. Even so, in the first track, at least, the Brazilian saxist seems to be at least trying to play coherent lines that go somewhere. He leaves the splattering of notes without a frame of reference to his musical partner.

As is the norm with Perelman, this is strange music, to which one must acclimate oneself in order to derive some enjoyment from it. His modus operandi seems to me to be to play relatively melodic licks in the low range, then jump into his altissimo register to provide edgy overtones. It’s quite possible that, like John Coltrane, he is trying to be his own ground bass, melodist and high-end commentator all at once, though he generally avoids Coltrane’s “sheets of sound.” But which is more palatable to the average listener? The tenor player who tries to give you “all the notes at once” or the one who spaces them out? That is for you to decide. The point is that Perelman sometimes constructs fine and interesting choruses, while at other times he appears to be simply experimenting in overtones.

I also wonder about the titles he assigns to his pieces, on this and other albums. At first I assumed that they were simply titles plucked out of the air, but through the years I’ve been following his progress I’ve come to believe that there is a certain Zen-like concentration in his playing, and this Zen attitude is reflected by the titles. In the second piece, River Mirroring a Smiling Moon, Marzan plays the guitar more conventionally than in the first track, but still he seems to be playing a subservient role, unlike pianist Matthew Shipp who often leads Perelman in their duo-excursions. Yet on Bees and Squirrels in the Garden, Marzan becomes a fuller partner in the creation of the music; and yes, I do feel that the saxist and the guitarist are in some way trying to depict the busy activity of bees with their very busy lines. What a peppy tune!

By contrast, Sun Through Closed Eyelids is more relaxed in tempo though no less atonal in design while Ears Drawing Sounds is another busy piece. Surprisingly, a melody is heard in the beginning of Dust of Light/Dancing in the Shadowed Forests. The point is that this music is often beyond a technical description; as Ornette Coleman once said, “You can transcribe notes but you can’t transcribe an environment,” and this is certainly “environmental jazz.”

One should be prepared for the unexpected at every turn but, at the same time, listen carefully to what is going on. Some of it will undoubtedly strike you as chaotic, but some will not. The important thing is to keep an open mind.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz

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