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Free jazz saxophonist Ivo Perelman releases two albums on June 12 on Leo Records

Ivo Perelman. Photo credit: Peter Gannushkin

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.

On The 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 Suite from 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.

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Saxophonist Kenny Garrett returns with “Seeds from the Underground” on April 10

Over the course of a stellar career that has spanned more than 30 years, saxophonist Kenny Garrett has become the preeminent alto saxophonist of his generation. From his first gig with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (led by Mercer Ellington) through his time spent with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis, Garrett has always brought a vigorous yet melodic, and truly distinctive, alto saxophone sound to each musical situation. As a bandleader for the last two decades, he has also continually grown as a composer. With his latest recording (and second for Mack Avenue Records), Seeds from the Underground, Garrett has given notice that these qualities have not only become more impressive, but have provided him with the platform to expand his horizons and communicate his musical vision clearly. Seeds from the Underground is a powerful return to the straight-ahead, acoustic and propulsive quartet format that showcases Garrett’s extraordinary abilities.
For Garrett, Seeds from the Underground is a special recording. It once again consists of all original compositions, and is truly an homage to those who have inspired and influenced him, both personally and musically. “All of these songs are dedicated to someone,” says Garrett in a news release. “And the ‘seeds’ have been planted, directly or indirectly, by people who have been instrumental in my development.”
The album highlights Garrett’s overall approach to music: wide-ranging, receiving ideas from all musical sources and genres. 

“I love the challenge of trying to stay open…about music and about life,” Garrett says. “If it’s music, I just try to check it out. Right now, I’m listening to some music from Martinique, and I’m lovin’ it. If I like it, maybe I can incorporate some of it into what I do.” 

As for composing: “I don’t try to control what I write,” he says. “Music comes from ‘The Creator.’ It’s a gift that’s coming in, and I receive it. I write in all genres, and I’m writing all the time. It’s never about what it is…I just say thank you.”
Seeds from the Underground is the latest stop on what continues to be a fascinating musical journey for Kenny Garrett and his listeners. It’s a recording that is not only a significant personal statement from the saxophonist, but a musical declaration of his continued growth as a musician, and in particular, as a composer.
“Since my last recording, [his Mack Avenue debut, Sketches of MD/Live at the Iridium], I’ve had a lot of different experiences [including the aforementioned Five Peace Band, as well as The Freedom Band featuring Corea, McBride and Haynes],” Garrett says. “What I liked about putting this album together was the idea that my writing had grown and had become a little different, partially the result of Seeds from the Underground.” 

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Concord Music to honor late saxophonist Lester Young in special collection

Concord Music Group will celebrate the legacy of Lester Young with the August 4 release of “Lester Young: Centennial Celebration.”
The 10-track compilation is the latest installment in Concord’s ongoing Centennial Celebration series, which honors the 100th birthdays of some of the most iconic and influential figures in jazz history.
Compiled and produced by Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s vice president of Jazz and Catalog A&R, “Lester Young: Centennial Celebration” draws primarily from recordings made in December 1956, during Young’s week-long run at Olivia Davis’ Patio Lounge in Washington, D.C. Young was accompanied in the first seven tracks by the Bill Potts Trio, the house band at the Patio Lounge: pianist Bill Potts, bassist Norman Williams and drummer Jim Lucht.
Even during his lifetime, Young’s approach had become highly imitated in jazz by such luminaries as Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and John Coltrane.