Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ivo Perelman / Karl Berger - The Hitchhiker (Leo Records, 2016)

This is a quiet and intimate duet album recorded between tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and vibraphonist Karl Berger. Both men are longtime veterans of the avant/free jazz scene, and the space created by the format and the sound of the vibraphone allowed a hushed dynamism to prevail over the course of the music. The album opens with “The Shadowy Path” which has a slightly yearning saxophone tone playing off against dancing vibes. Subtle peals of air and darting mallets and then metallic sounds that the vibes can achieve prod Perelman’s saxophone into higher pitches. Punchy, sharp squeaks and hollow clanks work very well as the music develops. Moving further afield, “The Well of Memory” paints with quiet shades of vibraphone and breath, it develops a haunted air akin to a misty meadow under shrouded moonlight, until Perelman breaks the spell, pushing his instrument into a more strident tempo. Tap dancing mallets with circling saxophone make their entrance on “Twilight” and give the music a sense of energy that is building through centrifugal force looking to break free. The music is in constant motion, as Berger takes his vibes through descending trails of notes, Perelman meets them with high pitched saxophone calls. “Unspoken Feelings” begins with Perelman alone, playing with a lonely and hushed sound, soon to be shaded patiently by Berger’s vibes in a quietly emotional performance. Some of the forlorn sensibility overflows in emotional squalls of saxophone toward the end and carries on into “The Hitchhiker” where Perelman becomes very dynamic in his improvising, ascending and descending in stridency and volume while Berger’s vibes move in the free space created by the harsh sounds. “Pride and Prejudice” is a beautiful interlude for solo saxophone, with Perelman playing with a raw and wounded sound that is emotionally open and free from pretense. His tone is captivating and similar in sound to the classic Albert Ayler sound of Spiritual Unity or Witches and Devils. Patient tones of saxophone and vibraphone usher in “The Sound of Bliss” which has ecstatic blasts of percussive mallets and bursts of raw saxophone that meet and converse and delve even deeper into the aesthetics of improvised music, with strong waves of saxophone and clamoring vibes. The album is completed by “Well Behaved Quarter Notes” where the squeaks and squiggles of fast saxophone meet the shimmering nature of the vibraphone in an example of great interplay. It becomes a cat and mouse game, playful and fun, between two old friends who have nothing but the highest respect for one another, and it is a very good way to end a fine album. Ivo Perelman The Hitchhiker - Leo Records

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