Though he seems to record a new album with pianist pal Matthew Shipp every week, and has also recorded a bunch with bassist Michael Bisio, violinist / violist Mat Maneri, and drummers Whit Dickey and Gerald Cleaver, jazz saxophonist Ivo Perelman seems just as comfortable working with new people, too. Of the nine piano players he teamed with for 2021’s duets boxed set Brass And Ivory Tales, for instance, only one was someone with whom he’d previously collaborated. Which brings me to his new album, Prophecy, on which he teams with cellist Lester St. Louis for the first time, and pianist Aruán Ortiz for the second after…well, what do you know? Brass And Ivory Tales.
Lester St. Louis, Ivo Perelman, Aruán Ortiz
Recorded January 2022 at Brooklyn’s Parkwest Studios, Prophecy features the trio on two lengthy tracks that, in typical Perelman fashion, are not named, but numbered: “One” (which clocks in at 37:23) and “Two” (17:48).
As is also typical for Perelman, the music on Prophecy is best described as free jazz adjacent, in that it never goes fully free form like John Coltrane did on Live In Japan or Interstellar Space, but rather pairs borderline noisy sax with more traditionally structured rhythms like, well, Coltrane did on Sun Ship and First Meditations.
As for the two songs on Prophecy, “One” opens this collection by having St. Louis play his cello in a moody and atmospheric way, while Perelman and Ortiz follow suit on the sax and piano, respectfully. What follows is a dark and moody tone poem, one that may not have a single recognizable melody running through it like you’d find in a traditional jazz tune (or pop ditty, or rock song), but is still not as noisy or “all over the place” as traditional free jazz. It’s a sprawling suite, at times more textured than tonal, but still effective as a moody piece of music.
Not surprisingly, Perelman, St. Louis, and Ortiz strike a similar tone on “Two.” More so, in fact, with the tune being even more atmospheric and textural. St. Louis in particular plays as if he’s merely adding shade and color to Perelman’s sax and Ortiz’s carefully chosen piano parts.
As a result, Prophecy is one of Perelman’s moodier albums, and also one of his more even keeled, as far as tone is concerned. Which, as someone who prefers his jazz to be dark and moody, is a good thing, though some might miss the variety he usually offers.
Now, as I mentioned, Prophecy is Perelman’s second collaboration with Ortiz, and first with St. Louis. But it’s also the first recorded collaboration for Ortiz and St. Louis (though they did previously collaborate on “Pastor’s Paradox: Music Inspired By The Political Life And Visions Of Martin Luther King,” which is detailed on Ortiz’s website as being, “…a suite for bass clarinet, clarinet, cello, piano and vocals,” that was performed at the “…Teatro Dallas in Texas on February 10, 2022.”)
I bring this up because, when it comes to collaborations, Perelman is somewhat atypical. Like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and many other jazz musicians, Perelman does some of his best work when working with people he’s played with before, and in the same configuration. But like Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, he also does good work when working outside the confines of a set group.
Which makes all my comments about who he’s playing with on this album, and how often they’ve played together before, well…moot.
But no matter.
If you like your free jazz adjacent music to be moody and atmospheric, Prophecy will be a highlight of your Ivo Perelman collection. And if not, well, I’m sure he’s probably got another album with Matthew Shipp coming out soon…