It’s funny, while sequels are common in movies and video games, it’s not something musicians usually do, especially jazz ones. Sure, Meatloaf made Bat Out Of Hell II Back Into Hell, and Metallica followed “The Unforgiven” with “The Unforgiven II” and “The Unforgiven III,” but Miles Davis never made Bitches Brew II or Miles Smiles 2 or Round About Noon.
But that’s exactly what free jazz adjacent tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and trumpet player Nate Wooley have done with Polarity 2 (CD, digital), their sequel to 2021’s Polarity. Well, sort of. Polarity 2 doesn’t answer all of the unanswered questions from Polarity. Nor does it continue the story or build upon the gameplay from the first one. Or give us another adventure for the superhero named Polarity. But it does do a good job of giving us some rather horn-y jazz instrumentals.
In typical Perelman fashion,
the seven song / fifty minute long Polarity 2 kicks off with “One,” in which it sounds like he and Wooley are, well, teasing each other, musically speaking, in a short track that has them playing back-and-forth, almost like they’re still feeling each other out.
Polarity 2 next goes fully free form and aggressive with “Two,” a squonk-fest of the highest order. This is not a song for the meek. It is, however, a song for people who like late era Coltrane (Stellar Regions, Interstellar Space), or the work of such iconic free jazz musicians as Ornette Coleman (Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation) or Charles Gayle (Consecration, Raining Fire).
Perelman and Wooley next get moody, at least initially, for Polarity 2‘s lengthy third track, “Three,” which opens with some smoky and slow sax that, after a minute or so, is joined by some equally dark trumpeting, like something out of an old noir film. Though things do start to get more aggressive in the middle of this nearly 11 minute long track, eventually getting to the point of being squonky (or, if you prefer, squanchy).
Things then get rather offbeat for “Four,” in which Perelman and Wooley start out making odd noises with their instruments, and keep going with this noisy approach in a way that reminded me of Pink Floyd’s classic oddball Ummagumma tune “Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict.”
Okay, maybe it’s not that weird,
or unmusical, or percussive, but it is an odd track.
And not alone in its oddness, as Perelman and Wooley take a similarly staccato approach to the opening of Polarity 2‘s next tune, “Five.” Though, admittedly, while it is just as aggressive in spots, it never gets as noisy or percussive as “Four” (or a Pink Floyd song).
Next, Polarity 2 goes back to being moody for its penultimate track, “Six.” Not as moody as the beginning of “Three,” mind you, especially when it gets to the middle, but it’s still mellower and more restrained than the two tunes that proceeded it.
Polarity 2 then comes to a conclusion with “Seven,” another bit of moodiness, though one that’s even slower and more atmospheric than any of this album’s other tone poems. And that’s still true when, towards the end, it builds to something of a relatively aggressive crescendo. As someone who likes his jazz like he likes his coffee — dark and moody — this tune is a clear highlight of this collection.
Which might make you wonder: How well does Polarity 2 work when taken together, given how schizophrenic it seems to be, mood-wise. While yeah, it does have conflicting moods, the tunes don’t actually conflict. In part, because Perelman and Wooley are distinctive players on their respective instruments, and in part because the teaming of a saxophonist and trumpeter without any other instruments makes this collection unique. It’s not for everyone, but for fans of the first Polarity who hoped for a sequel…