Two Men Walking is all about Ivo Perelman going one-on-one with a viola player, which is cause for joy for improvised music enthusiasts…especially since the viola player is a kindred soul in Mat Maneri. The idea of a tenor sax paired with a stringed instrument predominantly used in chamber music doesn’t seem compelling at first blush, I know, but as a former cellist, Perelman knows a thing or two about the musical dialect of stringed instruments and his familiarity is evident in the way he plays his sax. Besides, the A Violent Dose of Anything soundtrack with Maneri and Matthew Shipp didn’t turn out so bad in the least.
Perelman didn’t think so either, and it only made him hunger for more collaboration with Maneri. Thusly, a duet like no other was born. Two Men Walking is part of a trio of CD’s Perelman is releasing via the Leo Records imprint on March 25, 2014.
This isn’t just a perfect match entirely because of Perelman’s background; Maneri is the son of the late outlier saxophone great Joe Maneri, and the younger Maneri learned a lot of how to stretch the limits of sound, harmony and structure like a saxophone from his Dad. Perelman and Maneri didn’t need to meet in the middle by necessity, they were already occupying the same space.
Over ten performances, nothing was premeditated, not a thought was even given to how long these tracks would be; they range from 93 seconds to over eight minutes long. Whenever it was time to quit, they quit. Like some high-speed chess match, one makes a move, the other reacts and each move sets the performance down a course that either could predict beforehand.
It becomes clear from “Part One” that this is almost like the same person playing the same instrument because they are so close together in timbre, register and mannerisms. On the next cut, mini call-and-responses transit into simultaneous improvisation. After weaving and bobbing around each other, the two magically arrive at the same note to end the performance (they pull off that trick again to close out “Part Six”). Maneri scrapes, plucks and sometimes gets abrasive to match the impish nature of Perelman; like the saxophonist, he uses all means at his disposal to avoid sounding hackneyed and run-of-the-mill. Perelman mimics Maneri’s every move during “Part Four” so convincingly, it’s hard to tell he’s playing a sax and not a viola or violin.
The two break out in staccato on “Part Five,” another moment when Maneri is plucking and strumming his viola similar to guitar. And then there are times they play closely alongside each other: “Part Seven” treats us to them climbing up and down and up again, until they climb to the upper reaches of their instruments together.
When two like-minded individuals of high caliber get together to make music, it really doesn’t matter what instruments they’re playing. Ivo Perelman and Mat Maneri found so much common ground that Two Men Walking often sounds like one soul playing.
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