Monday, December 14, 2020

Film: Ivo Perelman: A Musical Storyteller (Leonel Costa, 2020)

A Musical Storyteller is a documentary about the life and music of Ivo Perelman, one of the most innovative saxophonists on the modern jazz scene. Over the course of an hour there are interviews with Perelman about a variety of subjects as well as interviews with many of the top musicians on the creative improvised music scene. Much like jazz hero Eric Dolphy, Perelman learned quite a bit from the natural world, particularly birds, and the film provides examples of his playing as the footage pans from an aviary to city scenes. He discusses his move to New York City and the energy that is brought forth by the musicians there, particularly his simpatico relationship with pianist Matthew Shipp. Shipp concurs during a brief interview, repeating that the process that Perelman brings to recording and performing is essential to his success. There is much discussion and performance footage of what he believes to be a formative performance with Flora Purim on vocals and Andrew Cyrille on drums. This was a very inside / outside meeting of the minds with interesting interview commentary from Perelman and Pruim putting things into context. This led him to  to re-investigate the music of his homeland of Brazil and there is some interesting footage of him sitting in with a traditional band while a local filmmaker discusses making a short film of the old meets new event. Further short interviews with well known musicians are presented, JoAnne Brackeen states that Perelman is a natural musician, who chooses compatible musicians to play with, using a unique voice. William Parker believes that spontaneous playing most important feature of Perelman's approach while another interviewee hears Ben Webster in his sound. An interview with his recording engineer in along side studio footage of Perelman with strings reveals his back to basics recording method into focus; playing freely, allowing the engineer to master the recording then picking the final tracks and pressing CDs. This simple method and his belief that musical partnerships become musical family, have lead to his prodigious output. Leo Fagin, owner of Leo Records has released over 50 Perelman CDs because he believes tthat the saxophonist never repeat, and always brings something new to the studio or stage. Furhter compliments from Whit Dickey, Joe Morris, Marilyn Crispell, and Gerry Hemmingway follow, interspersed with evocative footage of a solo dancer on a beach or in a studio accompanied by Perelman's saxophone. Summing up at the end of the film, he talks about the great saxophonists,  especially Ayler whom he feels a kinship with, and discusses  how he feels validated to be recognized, and the importance of the arts and its impact on the world and their struggle. This was an enjoyable and revealing film; so often we only know the musicians we are fans of by their recordings or social media presence, to have the time see them and to listen to them at length with their colleagues is a rare treat. Ivo Perelman: A Musical Storyteller - Leonel Costa

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