Label: Leo Records, 2018
Personnel - Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Mat Maneri: viola; Mark Feldman: violin (Strings1); Jason Hwang: violin (Strings1); Ned Rothenberg: bass clarinet (Strings2); Hank Roberts: cello (Strings2).
Ivo Perelman’s transformation here has nothing to do with the art of improvisation, which he continues to dominate effortlessly, but rather with the new-found sense of compelling narrative expressed entirely in the company of strings on Strings1, and side-by-side either with bass clarinet or cello (and sometimes both) on Strings2. As has been common in his groups, the music is made in the spur of the moment, and the musicians have no preconditions whenever they set foot in the studio.
Following a variety of modern classical ephemera, the first track on Strings1 (all the tracks are untitled) dances unorthodoxly throughout, presenting collective cries and finishing with saxophone punctuations in the form of altissimo squeals and occasional popping sounds over the solid high-pitched curtain created by violist Mat Maneri, a longtime associate, and violinists Mark Feldman and Jason Kao Hwang, a new addition and a re-encounter, respectively.
At some point, “Track 4” introduces some Eastern fragrances in its pointillism, also conveying a breezy insouciance in Perelman’s rambles, which come garnished with sporadic air notes and reiterated phrases. Open to textural flexibility, the quartet keeps defining surfaces and changing densities in a constant fluctuation of ideas and sounds. “Track 6” captures Perelman plunging into a sea of violins with the contrasting timbre of his instrument, whereas the energized “Track 8” seems to use ritualistic ways to emulate capoeira music.
Strings2 is naturally darker in tone due to the fortunate addition of bass clarinetist Ned Rothenberg on four tracks and cellist Hank Roberts on six. The drone-imbued “Track1” feels circumspect in nature in opposition to the brazen “Track2”, where agitated activity leads to serious turbulence. The recording lives from contrasting timbres, becoming candidly atmospheric through wails and laments, and sometimes resolutely rambunctious with incisive lines bursting in color.
To me, the great surprise arrived when Perelman and Rothenberg set up a spontaneous groove on “Track4”, later diluted in the swiftness of Maneri’s circular movements. This particular moment, together with the capoeira incursion (deliberate or not) proved that the concept of groove could be further explored without compromising Perelman’s unguarded passion for timbre, texture, and free improvisation. A possible next step?
Strings1 - Tracks 1, 4, 8
Strings2 - Tracks 1, 2, 4