Keeping up with Ivo Perleman recordings lately is like keeping up with a Facebook news feed of 5,000 friends. His predilection for making recordings without allowing the artistically stifling effect of forethought — and having his own record label, Leo Records — has liberated him to make records at a torrid pace; we’ve already covered three Perelman releases from this year alone and three more are on tap next week. I want to tell you about an album from that upcoming trio of records, called One.
One is Perelman’s debut for UK-based Rare Noise Records and is also the debut of a new trio, one that include Balazs Pandi — late of Rare Noise stars Slobber Pup and Metallic Taste of Blood — and Joe Morris on electric bass. In what has become a proud Perelman tradition, he and his co-conspirators enter the studio with no conspiracy, no song, no sketches, no nothin’ contemplated beforehand and hash out tunes while the tape is rolling on the spot. Nearly every Perelman-led record is like that, and yet Perelman manages to find new ways to improvise. Part of his secret has been to find new improvising partners with whom to meditate and create.
If for some odd reason you’ve had your quota of Perelman’s saxophone, however, One remains worth a good listen not just for the give-and-take between him and his cohorts (as usual), but also affords a rare chance to catch Morris strap on a Fender bass, plug it in and play it. Morris, of course, made his fame in the avant -garde world with his electric guitar, recently playing acoustic bass just as frequently. He’s already made several records playing the latter instrument with Perelman. But Perelman likes to do something a little different with every record he makes, since he makes six or more a year, after all. He was able to coax Morris into playing an instrument he’s never played for a gig much less a recording before, and that electric bass became a distinguishing feature about One.
The other distinguishing feature is the Hungarian drummer, Pandi. Morris has played with both Perelman and Pandi, but those two had never even contemplated playing together in any form until days before the session and so, these recordings mark their first-ever musical encounter. Pandi isn’t Gerald Cleaver, or Whit Dickey or even Rashied Ali, all of whom have previously worked with Perelman. Heck, Pandi’s not even really a jazz drummer, because to label him that would be too restrictive. But he’s a very instinctual drummer, and that in itself makes him a fine fit for Perelman and Morris. He sprays big, broad cymbal clouds like a rock drummer on “Freedom”, “To Remember What Never Existed” and “Universal Truth,” where he plays with bombast without having to be so loud when he does. Pandi picks up what the others are doing and accentuates it: during “Stigma,” Perelman comes with some inventive phrasing that Pandi exploits, interpreting on the fly for the drums. Moreover, Pandi blurs the lines between timekeeping and front-line theatrics, always seeming to know how much of either role to assume at any given time.
Joe Morris The Electric Bass Player doesn’t play that highly melodic style championed by Steve Swallow, but perhaps neither would Swallow if Perelman were his partner. Morris’ tone resembles the kind you would normally hear in a rock band, but his playing style favors the free-funk language of Jamaaladeen Tacuma. “One” is just him and Perelman, and it’s easier to notice how splits the difference between his guitarist self and bassist self, taking up the harmonic space of two players. Later on, he shows astonishing dexterity within a mini-solo when the mood shifts again. That’s topped on the very next track, “Universal Truth,” where he steps only slightly outside the complex circular shape he’s been playing and solos as swiftly as most guitarists.
There are many facets of Perelman’s approach, and most are on exhibit here. His wide vibrato during “What Love Can Lead To” oddly finds good company with Morris’s scaling bass and Pandi’s restless drums. He can clip notes or extend them to change the emotion of a song, like “One,” and in several spots he responds to a buildup in intensity from his rhythm section with some of his patented, high-end squeals.
Individual contributions are great, but the exceptional three-way telepathy puts One on a higher plane and justifies its title. Sometimes, no practice makes perfect, too.