Ivo Perelman + Karl Berger – Reverie (2014)

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In 1989, Sao Paulo’s Ivo Perelman released his first album, simply titled Ivo, featuring an all-star cast that included Flora Purim, Peter Erskine, Airto Moreira, Eliane Elias and John Patitucci, among others. Though the material was traditional Brazilian folk tunes, it was already apparent from this starting point that the fiery, instinctual Perelman had free jazz excursions in his future, and he in fact did. Many free jazz excursions.

A quarter of a century later, the master tenor saxophonist has made some fifty or so recordings, many of which are total improvs with kindred spirits ranging from Rashied Ali to Matthew Shipp. Just earlier this year we were talking up his recent one-on-one with viola ace Mat Maneri (Two Men Walking).

Perelman marks his twenty-five years as a recording artist with another duet, this time with veteran avant-garde composer, arranger, educator, pianist and vibraphonist Karl Berger. A protégé of Ornette Coleman, Berger and Coleman founded the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY in 1972, and the German-born Berger had participated in recordings of Carla Bley, John McLaughlin, Lee Konitz, and Alan Silva. He’s led some dates of his own, going back to 1966. But he and Perelman hardly knew each other prior to them getting together for Reverie (on sale September 23, 2014 from Leo Records).

Their unfamiliarity, of course, is no barrier to Perelman, who prefers for all his performances to involve no forethought, just 100% spontaneity.

Since Perelman had very recently made several recordings that included Shipp, my ears sought to find the distinction of performing alongside Berger after having heard a lot of him performing alongside another luminary of improvisational piano. Perelman changes his musical partners on virtually every album he makes because he’s so adaptive to whoever he’s playing with while keeping within his own vocabulary, which is nearly limitless. In Berger, he found a partner who is a refined utilizer of space and timing. Displaying his European heritage, Berger is more apt to quote Debussy than Monk, even in a free setting. That sets the tone for this one.

Perelman responds to Berger by rarely going at full throttle, but he’s just as capable of exhibiting intense passion in softer tones as he can with harsher ones. On “Transcendence” Perelman seems to be playing to some unknown melancholy melody, a void that is left to Berger to fill in as they go along. The affection moves from instances of awakening to anticipation to hopefulness to joy. Berger suddenly breaks out into a percussive groove briefly and Perleman reacts and leads the two back into the previous flow. On another idea, Ivo tests the upper end of his range with uncommon grace. Here, and as I later found, everywhere on this album, they together run through a dozen or thoughts within a song that could have formed the basis of songs on their own.

As they rummage through emotionally-based figures, never lingering on any of them overlong, they reach certain moments of poignancy, such as when Perelman delicately skirts the upper reaches of his saxophone during “Reverie.” The flowing cascade of notes is temporarily sidelined for the fractured “Pursuance,” which goes down a staggered path led by Berger that provides a springboard for a whole new set of ideas from Perelman. And though relatively brief at four minutes, Berger plays a series of descending figures punctuated by silence for the solemn “Contemplation,” leaving space for Perelman to finish his soul-wringing expressions with greater impact.

On a longer piece such as “Placidity,” there are enough distinct passages in them to form a whole disc’s worth of distinct concepts. Minor key heavy, Perelman is bluesy without playing the blues, and later, Bergen takes a solo turn in a flowing, classical style. Even a melodic, rollicking figure briefly breaks out at some point, and the whole things with a playful, synchronized chase for notes.

With Reverie, Ivo Perelman kicks off his next twenty-five years leading dates as an artist who shows no signs of slowing down or running out of ideas. Whatever he does next – and you can be certain that it will be very soon – it will be fundamentally different in some way from what he’s done before. And that is why that in spite of his uncommon productivity, each new release is worth the anticipation of a release by an accomplished artist who records sparingly.

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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