Whether it’s together or with other people, saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp have always displayed an ability to play different forms of acoustic jazz, be it more traditionally structured, free form, or somewhere in between, and often on the same album. Which is what you get on Amalgam (CD, digital), their latest (but certainly not last) collaboration, and newest collection of duets.
Photo Credit (here and above): ©️ Edson Kumasaka
For their thirty-third collaboration…
— including 10 as a duo — saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp are taking a somewhat different approach than normal. Where their concerts often have them improvising freely for 30 or 40 minutes, or more, Amalgam consists of twelve individual tunes, only one of which is longer than five minutes. And while they’re sequentially titled “Part 1,” “Part 2,” and so on, they are decidedly individual tracks, not a 12-part suite or something similar.
As for those actual parts, Amalgam opens, rather interestingly, with the slow and moody and mellow “Part 1,” which serves as an interesting way to ease into this collection. Doubly so since, in some ways, it recalls the opening track of another duo collection of Matthew Shipp’s, “Introduction,” which opened his duo album with Matt Walerian, Live At Okuden, except with Ivo Perelman’s steady sax taking the place of Walerian’s mournful clarinet.
Amalgam then moves into noisy territory for “Part 2,” a free jazz adjacent track that has Matthew Shipp banging his piano’s keys like he just read Bukowski’s novel Play The Piano Drunk Like A Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed A Bit while Ivo Perelman matches his aggression on the sax.
Next, Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp take Amalgam back to moody terrain of varying degrees with the album’s next three tracks. While “Part 3” and “Part 5” are both atmospheric tracks during which the two play their respective instruments sparingly and carefully, “Part 4” mixes things up, ever so slightly, by taking a similar approach, but also by having them both being slightly more aggressive in short, controlled bursts.
Amalgam then goes back to being aggro for the free jazz-esque “Part 6,” during which, like they did for “Part 2,” Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp play their respective instruments with more force and less concern for sounding “nice.” It’s a mood they continue for the short but sweet “Part 7,” during which Perelman’s sax gets a bit noisy while Shipp’s piano playing gets a bit playful.
Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp next try to have things both ways, and succeed, with “Part 8,” during which Shipp plays some beautiful and careful piano, while Perelman’s sax playing veers from the atmospheric to the noisy and back again.
The manic mood then returns to Amalgam for the free jazzy “Part 9,” which mirrors “Part 2” by having Ivo Perelman get aggressive with his sax playing while Matthew Shipp matches his approach with some banging piano playing (not to be confused with bangin’, though it is that as well).
Amalgam next takes a, well, the only way I can describe “Part 10” is to say that it has Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp playing slowly and carefully, but with the latter achieving a very slight echo, and a slightly off-kilter approach that makes this track sound like it could be the theme to a…horror movie. And a good one, too; not a Leprechaun sequel or something else that’s more jokey than scary.
Things aren’t so frightening on Amalgam‘s next track, “Part 11,” a decidedly more upbeat tune on which Matthew Shipp gets playful on the piano while Ivo Perelman blows his horn for all its worth.
Amalgam then concludes,
and fittingly, with “Part 12,” which opens with Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp initially playing slowly, carefully, and mournfully as if they know their time together is about to end (and if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in, it’s just your size), but picking up halfway through and becoming free jazz adjacent with all the skwonking and banging you’ve come to expect from many of the previous songs. It is a fitting end to this album, both a good summation of their skills and a fitting end to this impressive collection of duets.