Deep into a period of startling creative output, tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman now releases not one but two recordings – both of which underscore his mastery of free improvisation and his command of his instrument’s hidden resources; and each of which embroiders a thread from his voluminous past catalog.
OnThe Passion According to G.H.,Perelman has recorded with the Sirius Quartet; this remarkable string ensemble comprises top-drawer classical musicians who also have the rare ability to improvise at the level demanded by Perelman’s concept. In so doing, Perelman recapitulates his previous foray into string-quartet music (The Alexander Suitefrom 1998), but brings the potential of this collaboration to new heights of development. Despite the fact that sizable passages sound pre-composed, with the string quartet seeming to frame or echo the saxophone solos, the album is entirely improvised by all five musicians. As veteran jazz writer Neil Tesser says in the liner notes, “. . . Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this album is this: not one note of it was written in advance.”
The uncannily cohesive nature of the music would seem to belie that claim, but, as Perelman explains, “Sometimes, I would start playing; or I would say to them, ‘OK, you start’; or we would start together – or we would say, ‘Well, the tape’s rolling, we should play.’ Not all musicians are born for this; some are born to interpret Mozart, and that’s a wonderful gift, too. But these are highly skilled conservatory musicians who are also mad improvisers.”
Meanwhile, the simultaneous release of Perelman’s trio album The Foreign Legion spins arich tapestry from another, more recent thread. On it, Perelman continues the invigorating and illuminating project in which he partners with various combinations drawn from his acclaimed working quartet (pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Gerald Cleaver). Like the previous Family Ties, this new album features two-thirds of that band’s rhythm section – but not the same two-thirds. Cleaver remains on drums, but for The Foreign Legion,with pianist Matthew Shipp taking his place in the trio.
The result is a wildly different sound and substance from the previous disc. As Perelman has explained, “I was so pleasantly surprised [with the quartet] … I decided I want to explore my relationship with each member of the band. I realized that I was dealing with a quartet; but I was also dealing with a trio, and a duo, and another duo – it would become a different band each time one player would drop out for a while. Each occupies such a deep space that when he’s missing, it opens everything up so much.”
Born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, Perelman was a classical guitar prodigy who orbited a series of other instruments before finally gravitating to the tenor saxophone. His initial influences – cool jazz saxophonists Stan Getz and Paul Desmond – could hardly have presaged the galvanic, iconoclastic improvisations that have become Perelman’s stock-in-trade. But those early influences helped shape the romantic warrior at the heart of his most heated musical adventures.
In 1981, Perelman entered Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he focused on the mainstream masters of the tenor sax, to the exclusion of such pioneering avant-gardists as Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and John Coltrane – all of whom would later be cited as precedents for Perelman’s own work. He left Berklee in 1983 and moved as far from Boston as possible – to Los Angeles, where he studied with mainstream vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake, at whose monthly jam sessions Perelman discovered his penchant for post-structure improvisation. “I would go berserk, just playing my own thing,” he explains now.
Emboldened by this approach, Perelman began to research the free-jazz saxists who had come before him. In the early 90s – shortly after recording the first of the nearly 40 albums now under his name – he moved to New York, a far more inviting environment for free-jazz experimentation, where he lives to this day.
Critics have lauded Perelman’s no-holds-barred saxophone style, calling him “one of the great colorists of the tenor sax” (Ed Hazell in the Boston Globe); “tremendously lyrical” (Gary Giddins); and “a leather-lunged monster with an expressive rasp, who can rage and spit in violence, yet still leave you feeling heartbroken” (The Wire). The Passion According to G.H. and The Foreign Legion bring to 18 the total of albums Perelman has recorded for the Leo label.
Berkleemusic.com, the online school of Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, is launching Rock History, an online course that chronicles the evolution of one of the greatest periods of music. Rock History takes an in-depth look at the highs and lows of rock over the past 60 years; the key heroes and villains, the movers and shakers from the studio and the concert stage, and a behind-the-scenes look at the managers, industry executives, promoters, and cultural trends that shaped it. The course launches April 2, 2012.
Berkleemusic has tapped Steve Morse to author and teach Rock History. Morse brings a lifetime of real-world experience to the material. Steve was the senior rock writer at the Boston Globe for over three decades, and has contributed to other top-tier press outlets such as Billboard and Rolling Stone. He has also served on the nominating committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Steve has a rich background in rock history, having interviewed and developed strong, decades-long ties with dozens of the most important artists and bands in rock, including the Rolling Stones (first seeing them in 1966), U2, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Metallica, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Tom Petty, and others.
“The new Rock History online course from Berklee is a comprehensive, interactive, and immersive way to experience the most important and interesting time ever in the music industry,” says Dave Kusek, CEO at Berkleemusic.com in a news release. “Steve Morse has such a wealth of knowledge and insight into what actually happened behind the scenes and the way the course is crafted, it is simply the most unique and exciting way to learn about this incredible time in the history of music. You will not find a better way to learn about and appreciate the classic albums and live shows that were created by the true legends of rock and roll, as the music industry ignited.”
Throughout the course, students will view exclusive, never-before-seen Berkleemusic video interviews with rock luminaries including: Joe Perry of Aerosmith; Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead; Mike Mills of R.E.M.; Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers; George Clinton of P-Funk; producer Jack Douglas (who has worked with Aerosmith, Patti Smith, and John Lennon); promoter Don Law; Amanda Palmer; Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four; Duke Levine (who has played with the J. Geils Band and Aimee Mann); and English super-session drummer Dave Mattacks. Berkleemusic has also partnered with Wolfgang’s Vault to provide additional rare audio, video, and other forms of historical rock media presented in an educational context for the very first time.
“I have known Steve Morse for over twenty years,” concludes Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. “Steve is a musicologist and his love of music makes him a very enthusiastic teacher. Steve has an undying love of music and a proven ability to be one of music’s finest critics and writers.”
Berkleemusic will host a free live Rock History event in Berkleemusic’s studio Thursday, March 8 at 4 p.m. EST: an exclusive conversation between Rock History’s Morse, and Boston DJ John Laurenti. Laurenti joins Morse in the Pantheon of the Boston music scene. John is a DJ at Boston’s #1 classic rock station in Boston, WZLX is the music director at University of Massachusetts’ radio station, WUMB. Laurenti has also hosted a number of historical music documentaries shown on WGBH in Boston. To register, sign up at https://www.berkleemusic.com/openhouse-signup/.