Ivo Perelman with Matthew Shipp, William Parker and Gerald Cleaver – Serendipity (2013)

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Serendipity is, to put it succinctly, a forty-three minute improvisation among Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, William Parker and Gerald Cleaver. But any discussion of these four improvisational masters has proven difficult to pin down in just a handful of words.

The stellar lineup came about because Perelman experienced what I call a “happy mistake.” Planning a trio date with Shipp and Cleaver, one of those two ran late and couldn’t reach the studio. Perelman dialed up his old friend and past collaborator Parker to fill in the unexpected void, but when the “no-show” showed up anyway, the trio date became a quartet one. Perelman has his own word to describe this: serendipity.

Serendipity is ostensibly Perelman’s date, but the cooperative dynamism is the real story of the record. Pulling back the curtain on Perelman’s by turns swaggering, pleading sax personas, there’s a hard working rhythm section mixing it up behind him. Cleaver masterfully creates multiple, ambiguous rhythms to which Parker latches on while keeping a close ear on Shipp’s blanket of notes. Perelman traverses a range of emotions from his sax, spraying notes out like a lethal weapon or wailing with a wide vibrato Albert Ayler style, with a smattering of tender moments that refer to the mainstream jazz he played earlier in his career.

On a couple of instances, Perelman lays out to hand over the melodic reigns to Shipp, who continues with the thoughts he was expressing underneath Perelman just prior. It’s right about that time that Cleaver settles in a discernible groove that serves as a counterpoint to Shipp. The second time around, the rhythm section takes its collective foot off gas and the breathing room is created for Shipp’s carefully modulated enunciations.

Cleaver is creatively coming up with interesting new rhythms that continually refresh the epic improvised piece. In one instance, as Perelman returns after a Shipp feature, Cleaver introduces a kind of fractured swing and Perelman responds with playing it with the cool of a 50s saxophonist in the manner of Rollins or Gordon. In another moment, Cleaver and Parker respond to Shipp’s discreet withdrawal with their funkiest groove of the performance, sending Perelman to his most manic moment. Parker himself gets a two minute, unaccompanied bass performance, an idiosyncratic solo where he suppresses all but a select handful of the notes he plays at a blistering speed.

Imbued with energy, there’s a palpable sense the joy the four are getting from instantly formulating music that is all but formulaic. They say that sometimes, less is more. Here was a time where one more, Parker, was much more.

Serendipity is due out April 3, by Leo Records.

Purchase Serendipity here.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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