Ivo Perelman Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Ivo Perelman, 2015, ©Clara Pereira

Ivo Perelman, 2015, ©Clara Pereira



Name: Ivo Perelman
Instrument: tenor saxophone
Style: free jazz, avant-garde jazz
Recent Album Highlights: Breaking Point (Leo Records, 2016), The Art of the Improv Trio (Leo Records, 2016) and The Art of Perelman-Shipp (Leo Records, 2017) 








First inevitable question: what drives you to keep creating in an unstoppable way?
Since five years ago, I started to intensify my relationship with the music, with the sonic texture and the pureness of sound. I’ve just realized that my main energetic pattern is basically music. That’s why I’m a musician. It comes alive! It’s like I’m experiencing the world in a musical/energetic way.

How did your recent European tour with Matthew Shipp go?
It was fantastic. I came back willing to spend some more time in Europe. I felt at home there. It was incredible how the things grew. It started slowly, but then on the fifth show, it was almost as if the sax started talking by itself. By the way, Leo Records is going to release soon a 6-CD box with our concerts in Europe – The Art of Perelman-Shipp Live.

When and how did you start this collaboration with Matthew?
I met him here in NY around the early 90s. At that time his wife was working at a restaurant. We started talking and suddenly she asked me: “you’re a musician, do you know Matthew Shipp?” I said: “yes, I know him and I like what he plays”. When I talked to him for the first time, we decided to record right away without rehearsal, exactly the way I like it. We went to the studio, without knowing each other well, and we recorded my record Bendito of Santa Cruz.

I know that record very well. Actually, I’m a fan of your initial phase, when you used to mix Brazilian influences with avant-jazz. Do you ever think of going back to those roots again?
It’s true that my style changed and that’s because now I’m willing to explore sounds and timbres, or what we call of sound techniques. In truth, I’m studying shehnai, an Indian instrument with double reed. I’ve been focusing a lot on a musician who is considered the Coltrane of shehnai, Bismillah Khan. So, I’m still open to other types of music and it's not that I left Brazilian influences behind; it’s just the phase I’m into right now. Maybe one day I can go back to that.

Do you listen to music from Brazil? Like bossanova, for instance?
Not bossanova, but I sometimes listen to picturesque funny stuff that reminds me my childhood. Brazilian music talks to me in an emotional way. I retrieve the music I used to listen to when I was a teenager, a slightly troubled period of my life, like happens with the majority of teenagers. I had many options and wanted to quickly find what I would be in my life. I had some pressure from my family since they wanted me to study while I just wanted to play music with my friends. A musician that I identified myself with at that time is called Guilherme Arantes, who was a good composer from a harmonic perspective, but after his first phase, his music became more commercial. Thus, it speaks to my heart and I fetch this music sometimes, so I can feel I’m 15 years old again (laughs).

Are there any other styles you like to listen to? 
Currently, I’m listening to Indian ragas because of Ismillah Khan. There was a time that it was Maria Callas’ music. It depends. There are periods of time that I like to turn on the radio on the Internet, an app that I choose the music I want to hear from any part of the globe.

What about jazz?
I always listen to jazz. Recently, when I went to Brazil, and especially when I was stuck in São Paulo’s traffic, I played on the CD player the music of classic tenor saxophonists from the 50s and 60s like Harold Land, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, Pete Christlieb, Wane Marsh. Now, back in NY, I’m more centered on my saxophone and the time is more limited to listen to music.

You’re also an active visual artist. Does it work like in the music? Do you ever stop? 
Now, I’ve stopped a little bit because I have many artworks in a gallery in São Paulo. I’m afraid that the gallery can't accumulate a lot of material if I keep creating.

Are these art forms connected somehow? What do you picture in your mind when you’re improvising?
They are totally connected. I think of sonic structures since I’m an expressionistic, geometrically-abstract architect of sound. I search for volumes, energetic masses that temporarily solidify. In my head, this is precisely visual art before coming out as music.
What was the hardest time of your career?
About 20 years ago, there was a phase that I didn’t know which direction to take. I was unable to move from where I was. Yet, this period didn’t last long, I would say between 6 months and a year or so. Also, I had a severe tendinitis in my arm that hampered me to play for some time. In order to avoid that, I try to lead a healthy life, including sleeping regular hours and avoiding excesses in terms of eating and drinking.

And when did you feel most fulfilled?
It’s now! I think my ideas are flowing and are being reproduced with fidelity through the saxophone. They are coming out abundantly, and I feel I’m not struggling with my instrument anymore. I reached a phase that I always have dreamt of, where the melodic lines arrive effortlessly.

Can you name two persons who have influenced you the most in your career?
Jackson Pollock, who, to me, is the Charlie Parker of the painting. By seeing the documentaries and reading about his life, I accepted the fact that the mission of the artist is arduous and painful. Till then, I had many immature fantasies in respect to the music and art.
Also my ex-girlfriend, Dila Galvão, a very beautiful person who was very important in my music. I’m grateful to her for all the energy and joy of life.

Are there any musicians you've never collaborated with, but you'd like to?
Cecil Taylor, whom I almost played with, but never really happened. Both of us played with Dominic Duval, who tried to put us together, but Cecil was a very volatile person and was impossible to predict when he would be up to.
Thelonious Monk is another one. 
And many people might find this a bit weird, but I like Keith Jarrett. When I first moved to Boston, besides the first contact with the jazz in-loco, it was a very impacting experience for me, and I don’t know why but that phase connected with Jarrett’s music and his first records, especially Facing You and The Koln Concert. It’s very beautiful music. He’s still around, but we inhabit very distinct worlds.

What great qualities do you find in your frequent collaborators Matthew Shipp, William Parker, and Joe Morris?
My prolific association with Matthew is because I love to play with him. It’s never tiresome or boring because we always find stimulation to create. He always pokes me and I believe I always poke him too. I think this collaboration will never stop. It’s one of those gifts that the universe generously offers you.
William Parker is a multi-artist, a poet who inspires me even before the recording starts. Recently, I was in the Park West Studios, recording with him, Matthew, Whit Dickey and Bobby Kapp, and from my booth, I could see him playing very close. I couldn’t take my eyes from him. He’s one of those musicians who opens your appetite to play.  
Joe Morris is a bottomless well of creativity. He offers many possibilities since he plays electric and acoustic bass, electric and acoustic guitar, and also mandolin.

If you had to define yourself in one word what would it be?
Researcher. I do that in an almost methodical and scientific way, learning ways of manipulating the sound in order to advance from one layer to another. Like if I was trying to discover the quantum energy of the atoms.

What can people expect from your upcoming performance in quartet (Matthew Shipp, Michael Bisio, and Whit Dickey) at the Vision Festival? 
This is my third time at Vision and it’s going to be very interesting. This recent tour I did with Matthew was a crucial point for me. It’s not that we expect it to be the same because a duo sounds different than a quartet, but the influence of this recent experience will certainly have a great expression on the show.