Ivo Perelman, Mat Maneri + Tanya Kalmanovitch – Villa Lobos Suite (2015)

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The notion of pairing a tenor saxophone with a viola makes sense to possibly no one but to Ivo Perelman. After all, the Brazilian-born improvisational sax ace had once studied the viola’s close cousin the cello and it’s evident in his sax playing that he regards the sax and stringed instruments as close to the same thing. So when he paired up last year with violist Mat Maneri, the son of sax great Joe Maneri, it was going to be simpatico. And that’s just what the collection of improv pieces Two Men Walking ended up being. The encounter worked to perfection because, as I wrote then, “Perelman and Maneri didn’t need to meet in the middle by necessity, they were already occupying the same space.”

Perelman constantly seeks out new challenges, however, and his latest expands on the sax-viola idea in the literal sense: Villa Lobos Suite (now available through Leo Records) is a sax-viola-viola idea.

It came from Perelman’s desire to exchange musical thoughts with a small string section. “What would be better than one viola?” he pondered, to which he reached the obvious answer: “Having two violas!” The second violist brought in for this latest experiment is someone regarded by Perelman as a “second” Mat Maneri, Canadian author and musician Tanya Kalmanovitch.

As for that title, Villa Lobos Suite: after completion of this record, Perelman realized that the music bore the influence of one of Perelman’s heroes from childhood: the great Brazilian classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Even though there is an obvious difference between the structured compositions of Villa-Lobos’ work and the completely spontaneous sessions, the flow and the emotion of these sessions bear certain markings of classical music that’s hard to ignore, especially since there is now a string section, not merely a string player.

Throughout these ten pieces Perelman as before turns his sax into another stringed instrument. His diction alternately mimics the legato gliding over the strings and the sharp scrapes against it. If you compare it against the methods he undertakes against other musical partners, it becomes ever clearer that he never plays in a vacuum and is either leading or following Maneri. And now, Kalmanovitch, too.

Having to interact with a second violist can double the complexity, but it’s made to sound easier than it is because Maneri and Kalmanovitch first interact with each other so well, often functioning as a single unit. And without any forethought!

The ten tracks weren’t issued any names but the second one features Kalmanovitch without Maneri, allowing us to assess the newcomer to the Perelman world of improv in isolation. She reveals herself to be a real intelligent performer, able to chart her course of a figure on the spot seemingly several moments in advance.

Ivo Perelman came up with a very logical way to follow up the successful Two Men Walking…by adding one talented woman to the two men for this latest walk.


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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