Ivo Perelman – Kindred Spirits w/ Rudi Mahall and Spiritual Prayers w/ Jason Stein (2018)

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Ivo Perelman, that endless fountain for saxophone phraseology, is finally slowing down. On August 24, 2018, his latest batch of releases will hit the market and this time, there’s a mere two albums coming forth, Kindred Spirits and Spiritual Prayers (Leo Records).

Earlier this year, Perelman’s three-disc blast Oneness with Matthew Shipp signaled the tentative end of a wildly fruitful collaboration with that innovative pianist, which implied that Perelman would next seek out new partners which whom to bounce around ideas extemporaneously. Ever eager to try out new vistas for ideas, the focus for this twofer is the bass clarinet and its interaction with Perelman’s tenor saxophone. The idea Perelman had in mind was continued growth as an artist by trying things he hadn’t done before, “considering that I’ve built my career so far by playing mainly with piano, bass, drums and strings. Playing with another reed instrument opens up so many possibilities.”

In searching for the right bass clarinetists to partner with, Perelman could have chosen from so many musicians but whittled down the list considerably by requiring that such a musician was primarily devoted to the instrument, not playing it on the side. That led him to two current titans of the big clarinet: Germany’s Rudi Mahall and Chicago’s Jason Stein.

Kindred Spirits with Mahall expands across two discs — so perhaps Perelman hadn’t really slowed down at all — and the thing that jumps out from the get-go from this tête-à-tête is how Mahall’s bass clarinet closely resembles the sound of Perelman’s tenor sax. Even when Perelman climbs up the register and does his signature high frequency acrobatics, Mahall is right there with him able to do the same with the same level of dexterity (Track 3 on the first disc is particularly illustrative). Like the saxophonist, Mahall’s deep understanding of the jazz tradition bleeds through in his diction, even as he is going way outside. There remains a connection back to melody that bubbles up to the surface before the proceedings get overly unhinged, a vision strongly shared by both.

Jason Stein fits with his saxophone foil in a different way. On Spiritual Prayers, Stein is distinguished by a rich, gooey tone and diction that might owe more to saxophone greats Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Warne Marsh than any of his bass clarinet predecessors. Very liquid in his transitions between notes, Stein can trill and execute fast arpeggios with the best of them and moreover, does so within the context of providing counterpoint and synergy to Perelman. The mutual mind-reading is sometimes astonishing, as in the way the two climb up together to reach the high note that concludes Track 2, or traversing through the ranges of their horns in perfect concordance throughout Track 6.

As Ivo Perelman has proved many times before, he can pair up his tenor saxophone with any other instrument and with no forethought engage in an engaging conversation with that instrument. But the critical first step comes in choosing the right partners, and there again Perelman showed his shrewdness. That’s why Kindred Spiritsand Spiritual Prayers are worthy of notice even within his voluminous catalog.

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