Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Jeff Cosgrove: “Live In Carrboro” Review
While tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp are so prolific — both individually and as a duo — that even Prince would’ve told them to chill out, the same cannot oddly be said for the trio they sometimes have with drummer Jeff Cosgrove. In fact, in the six years between releasing the trio’s first album, 2017’s Live In Baltimore, and the new Live In Carrboro (digital), Perelman and Shipp recorded nearly a dozen duo albums together, including (but not limited to) Fruition, Amalgam, and Triptych. And that’s not even counting all the ones they made on their own and with other people. But rather than be offended that he doesn’t get to play with his friends as much as he might like, Messrs. Cosgrove should instead revel in the knowledge that, as displayed on this album, it’s pretty cool when he does.
Recorded November 4, 2022…
at the Arts Center in Carrboro, North Carolina, Live In Carrboro has the trio playing a single song, freely improvised over the course of nearly 55 minutes, and in front of — as we hear at the end — an appreciative audience.
Like much of the music Perelman and Shipp make, both together and apart, Live In Carrboro veers freely from smoky jazz and moody moments to what I always describe as free jazz adjacent, in that it flirts with getting noisy, but never goes fully avant garde or noisy.
Or, to put it another way, it’s like Sun Ship-era Coltrane, not Live In Japan.
Which is not to say Live In Carrboro doesn’t get frantic or free form. More that when it does, it’s Perelman who’s doing the pushing, while Shipp and Cosgrove give him a sturdy rhythmic bed, or that Cosgrove stays the course while Shipp gets scattershot, though in a similar / simpatico kind of way, as Perelman.
Though it should be said that Shipp never goes fully out there on the piano on Live In Carrboro. He never, say, bangs the piano’s strings with a hammer, or slams multiple keys at the same time like he’s Jerry Lee Lewis on a bender. It’s more like he follows Perelman up and down the keys quickly and sharply.
As for Cosgrove, I’ve never met the man, but I can say with some confidence that he’s either smart and / or a very good listener, because he never tries to compete with Perelman or Shipp on Live In Carrboro. He clearly knows this is a losing prospect. In fact, there are times when he doesn’t play at all, even if just for a few seconds, as if he knows the music doesn’t need him just then. It’s the kind of sparse approach Mile Davis used to take, and it serves Cosgrove — and Perelman, and Shipp — well here.
This is not to say Cosgrove is wasted on here, or doesn’t care. Quite the opposite. More that he knows where he is, who he’s playing with, and the best way he can support his bandmates and the music they’re making. Had he gone full throttle during any part of this show, it would’ve been disruptive. And no, not in a cool free jazz kind of way, either.
As for the single song structure of Live In Carrboro, which some might think it’s a bit much to have a song be almost an hour long, it’s not out of character. Live In Baltimore was also a single, 51-minute-long tune, and even when Perelman and Shipp do present their music in smaller pieces — like on the aforementioned Fruition, Amalgam, and Triptych — they always just form one long suite anyway.
All of which is why,
even with Cosgrove’s contributions, this is still very much a Perelman / Shipp joint, and will appeal to fans of their duo records (unless, of course, said fans have an aversion to subtle drums). Which would be too bad, because it is Cosgrove’s subtle drumming that sets Live In Carrboro apart from other Perelman / Shipp albums, and thus makes it a little more interesting, if only for being somewhat unique in the twosome’s canon. Though if they want to make it less so, I’m sure Cosgrove would abide.