Ivo Perelman, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver – The Art Of The Improv Trio, Volume 4 (2016)

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Going by productivity, saxophonist Ivo Perelman could rightly be labeled the hardest working man in improvised music. He generates about 12-15 albums of all-new original material…every year. Last spring, Perelman cut loose five albums of fresh improv, three in a duo setting and the other two quartets (we surveyed the duo records at that time). A mere six months later came forth six more fresh Ivo Perelman releases.

Quantity does not always equate with quality, but they consistently co-exist with Perelman’s music. Both are possible because he so practiced in the art of improvisation and chooses among the best in the field to improvise along with him. And with each batch of releases, there are new angles explored. This time, it’s all around the trio, and the six volumes of The Art Of The Improv Trio tinkers with combinations that include Perelman and two of the following: Matthew Shipp, Whit Dickey, Joe Morris, Garland Cleaver, William Parker, Karl Berger and Mat Maneri.

That’s a lot of material to absorb, more than I can adequately describe in this space. But after listening to all six volumes, I came away most intrigued by the recordings Perelman made with the Parker/Cleaver rhythm section, last heard on a Perelman-led date with Shipp with 2013’s Serendipity. Every Ivo Perelman improv outing is defined by how the saxophonist interacts with the unique personalities arrayed around him, and there’s something to how bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver make something out of the ordinary with the sax-bass-drums configuration.

Volume 4 is middle-heavy, a protracted piece sandwiched by two, five-minute ones. On the opening segment “Part 1,” Parker’s capability of harmonizing in real time is readily discernible, as is Cleaver, who’s feeding off of the percussive aspects of Perelman’s flow of notes. As the three wind down, they fall into a blues mood.

The “Part 2” centerpiece performance mostly sprints its way across the audial terrain, Perelman making the journey with pure instinctiveness while spitting out one melodic invention after another. Taut as always, Parker after a while joins in the fun and conjures up riffs out of the blue that gives more impetus for Perelman to set off in a new direction. Right in the middle of the proceedings, he gets a solo spot and the master bassist even comes up with a danceable shuffle near the end; Perelman seems to revel in the festive vibe. Cleaver’s tempos are so liquid, imperceptibly modulating the time as he plays to Perelman whims telepathically.

The three sound so elusive on the epilogue piece but so of a single mind, adjusting continuously and doing it together. Perelman really opens up the bell of his horn after a while, reaching high at times and soaring with a candied tone.

There’s a lot of art contained within The Art Of The Improv Trio, Volume 4, but singling out this volume in no way means the other five volumes fall short of it. Ivo Perelman liberally mixes and matches his improv trios and maintains his high standards for free jazz all the same.

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