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Ivo Perelman Double Trio - Suite For Helen F.

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Artist: Ivo Perelman Double Trio

Album: Suite For Helen F.

Label: Boxholder

Review date: Mar. 14, 2004

From cave pictograms and frame drums to free jazz and the Abstract Expressionists (AE), the visual and aural arts have long had a symbiotic relationship. Jackson Pollock’s “White Light” served as the cover art to Ornette’s Free Jazz, after all. Some artists have even tried their paint-stained hands at making music themselves. Witness German artist/drummer A.R. Penck who teamed up quite frequently with New York free jazz movers and shakers like Frank Lowe, Frank Wright and Billy Bang. More recently there’s Brooklyn based painter/guitarist Jeffrey Shurdut who’s been churning out cross-disciplinary collaborations on his own self-produced label. Various veteran improvising musicians have also dabbled in the tangible arts over the years, but few, if any, have found the success visited upon saxophonist Ivo Perelman.

Perelman’s induction into the international art community came at a time when, like most of his peers, he was struggling just to pay the rent and put food in the cupboard. The reality that the sale of a single painting could eclipse the earnings of a year’s worth of busking and gigging became a lure impossible to resist. Music took a back burner as his energies turned full time to the brush. Fortunately he hasn’t abandoned his horn completely and there have been periodic returns to his original creative conduit: The Eye Listens (1999), The Seven Mysteries of the Universe (2001), and The Ventriloquist (2002). Suite for Helen F. registers as the latest and it’s an archetypal instance of a musician making up for lost time. The set is Herculean both in terms of size and sonic density. Dedicated to fellow AE painter Helen Frankenthaler, the seven parts collectively clock in at over a hundred minutes. Perelman attaches a corresponding painting to each section and the set’s accompanying sleeve booklet includes reproductions of them all.

Perelman’s chosen collaborators have long histories working in rewarding collusion. Bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen are the glue to CIMP and Cadence Jazz sessions numbering well into the double digits. Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway, on the same respective instruments, rank most famously as two-thirds of the chosen ‘rhythm’ section of Anthony Braxton’s classic quartet. Each team segregates cleanly into its own stereo channel making for easy differentiation. Readers familiar with the past work of these four musicians probably know what to expect here.

The music is often unrelenting and there are times where it seems more of a contest between Perelman and colleagues than collaboration. Realistically, few saxophonists could hold their own under such odds but Ivo proves himself among the anointed number. His excoriating lines refuse to play the role of shrinking violet, though there are strong strains of lyricism shot throughout all the ebullient carnage. It’s here where he breaks with the precedence of peer fire breathers like Charles Gayle, even while this set is often reminiscent of Gayle’s more intractable early 90s efforts for Knitting Factory and FMP.

Opening with just the drummers behind him, Perelman looses a swelling chain of rhythmic honks and squeals, alternating legato streaks with clipped cries and whinnies. With the brittle, cagey beats goading him forward, his lines quickly push into the false upper registers of his horn, expending livid hot notes like spent shells from a high caliber cannon. Dropping out, he leaves the drummers to a choppy exchange of martial cadences, with Rosen rolling out the funk and Hemingway coming at the action from a more angular obliquely-skewed stance. Duval and Dresser don’t even appear until nearly a third of an hour has passed. Plenty of fertile patches do arise consequently for them to mesh flurried fingers and bows. Abandon all phobias toward the sustained cathartic scream ye who enter here.

The coarse beauty and terror on hand in such profusion shores up a central truism. Ivo’s tenor more than deserves equal representation with his newly celebrated paintbrush as a creative outlet. If only work on the former instrument paid even remotely as well.

By Derek Taylor

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