Sometimes jazz can be really incestuous. Just consider the careers of tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman, pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker, and drummer Bobby Kapp. Over the years, Perelman and Shipp have made around three dozen albums together; Shipp and Parker have recorded another two dozen; Perelman and Parker have five collaborations to their credit; while Perelman’s recorded two albums with Kapp, one of which features Shipp, and two others with Shipp and Parker, one of which features…wait for it…Kapp. It’s this latter configuration that presents Ineffable Joy (CD, vinyl, digital), a sometimes frantic and sometimes intricate collection that is this foursome’s second session after 2017’s Heptagon.
Recorded on April 21, 2018,
Ineffable Joy has these veterans of free form jazz doing what they do best: finding the beauty in the cacophony. “Ecstasy,” which opens the album, is a sparse piece, with Shipp, Parker, and Kapp playing carefully so Perelman has room to weave his sax tones in and out of the rhythms.
“Ecstasy” is followed on Ineffable Joy by the title track, a peppy number that has Shipp, Perelman, Parker, and Kapp bouncing around their respective instruments like they just drank three espressos a piece and are all jittery. Though not as far out as some free jazz we’ve heard — we’re looking at you, hour-long version of “My Favorite Things” on John Coltrane’s Live In Japan— it is still less structured than such free jazz-adjacent work as Shipp and Parker’s collaboration with multi-horn player Mat Walerian on 2017’s This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People.
Next, we have “Jubilation” — and yes, we’re sensing a theme — on which things finally calm down a bit, relatively speaking. So much so, in fact, that it sounds, dare I say it, like traditionally structured jazz tune, even if it does have Shipp still playfully jumping around. Though this tonal shift isn’t jarring; it’s basically like listening to one of Miles Davis’ mid-to-late-’60s albums (Miles Smiles, Sorcerer) after grooving on one of John Coltrane’s from around the same time (First Meditations, Sun Ship).
Ineffable Joy then takes a moody turn with “Ebullience,” a carefully played tune that, like “Jubilation,” sounds more like a jazz standard than something from the avant garde. For that, we need to go the album’s fifth track, “Bliss,” another wild and wooly tune on which everyone just does their own thing, man.
This is followed on Ineffable Joy by “Elation,” which finds them calming back down again, though not to the point of sounding like something from the ’60s. Shipp is still playful here, even if Perelman, Parker, and Kapp are going for a smokier approach.
A similar approach is also used on Ineffable Joy‘s penultimate track, “Rejoicing,” though it has an even looser structure, with Perelman joining Shipp in the less structured realm. That is, until it gets to the middle, and Perelman and Shipp step aside — presumably for more espresso — leaving Kapp and Parker room to inject some rhythmic atmosphere before being slowly rejoined by Perelman and Shipp.
Which brings us to “Exuberance,” which concludes Ineffable Joy on an upbeat and somewhat frazzled note. Bringing things back around, the track has all four returning to the free form approach that started this album.
the somewhat schizophrenic approach of Ineffable Joy won’t work for everyone. Some will enjoy the more carefully plotted tunes; other, the less structured ones. But for anyone who’s followed the careers of the four musicians involved — either alone or when collaborating — this is hardly unexpected. And just as it won’t work for every jazz fan, not every jazz musician could make it work either. But these four do, and in spades. Seems like being incestuous in jazz ain’t such a bad thing.