GARDEN OF JEWELS / PERELMAN-SHIPP: Garden of Jewels. Tourmaline. Amethyst. Onyx. Turquoise. Emerald. Sapphire. Diamond / Ivo Perelman, t-sax; Matthew Shipp, pno; Whit Dickey, dm / Tap Forms TAO 04CD
Once again we dip into the free jazz minds of tenor saxist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp, here playing with a drummer for a change. The music is clearly in a mold similar to Perelman and Shipp’s previous encounters, although the opening selection is slower, more lyrical and moodier than their usual high-energy dialogues.
In previous reviews of this duo, I’ve commented on the beneficial effect that each has on the other. By playing more chords and at least leaning in the direction of form, Shipp leads Perelman into some of his most lyrical and coherent improvisations most of the time, while the saxist pushes the pianist more to the outside. This does not mean that Perelman is in any way hampered by this; he still loves to play high, overblown notes at the top of extended chords, but more often than not he creates interesting shapes and sometimes creates whole choruses in which the patterns of notes he chooses make a melodic or thematic pattern that fits in better than he might otherwise be inclined to do on his own.
Despite the use of drummer Whit Dickey, these are still essentially two-way conversations between saxist and pianist. Dickey only comes in when he feels like it, and his main contribution appears to be the addition of off-beats, playing against rather than with the pianist’s rhythm. Yet, interestingly, he seems to be more on Perelman’s wavelength, an ally of the saxist against the more formal contributions of the pianist. At times, however, Dickey is quite busy, and these moments add another level to the ongoing musical conversation.
Another interesting thing in this particular album is that Shipp appears to be playing his own thing regardless of what Perelman and/or Dickey are into. Occasionally he will interact with outside chords, and in Tourmaline he and Perelman lock into a repeated rhythmic pattern at one point, but for the most part it is as though each were playing their own thing on opposite sides of the room but eavesdropping on each other and trying to complement or contradict what the other is playing.
This creates an interesting tension that is at the heart of this disc. Sometimes, with Perelman’s CDs, I wonder about the fanciful titles given to each of the pieces. I’ve come to the conclusion that the titles are an afterthought, given just before the album goes into production, and not working titles that the musicians are conscious of at the time of creation. I say this because, although the names of the pieces are given as you see them in the header to this review, the actual sound clips I downloaded simply bear numbers: “Seven,” “Four,” “Eight,” “Two,” “Three,” “One,” “Nine,” “Ten,” indicating to me that these were how the takes were numbered while the session was being recorded.
In Onyx (a.k.a. Two), for instance, one hears something interesting, the members of the trio feeling one another out, giving each other some space while claiming space of their own. Or, perhaps I should say, Shipp and Dickey giving each other some space while Perelman just goes along his own path. Either way you hear it, it’s fascinating.
This is yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of the Perelman-Shipp duo, highly recommended for their many fans as well as those who would like to check out creative free jazz.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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