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CD Review: Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp “Amalgam”

By Hrayr Attarian

Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp Amalgam

Ivo Perelman – Tenor saxophone

Matthew Shipp – Piano

Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp have had a long and fruitful collaboration that has resulted in an impressive oeuvre. These releases—whether featuring Perelman and Shipp alone or with other like-minded musicians—are restlessly innovative and utterly absorbing. The contemplative and melancholic Amalgam is their tenth duet album and, like many of its predecessors, is entirely improvised. The spontaneous and provocative suite is divided into twelve interlaced segments, that flow into one another with a logical progression.

Opening on a nocturnesque tone, Perelman’s serpentine lines meander within Shipp’s darkly shimmering cascade of resonant notes. A yearning lyricism permeates ”Part 1.” Its two complementary, musing monologues feed off each other, sometimes charting parallel paths and at others intersecting with a subtle elan. “Part 2” starts off with Shipp carrying over some of the blues-tinged ideas from the previous track, that quickly burst into a passionate and angular discourse. Shipp contributes percussive chords while Perelman honks and squawks with fiery creativity.

Overall, however, the current work is much more introspective than their 2019 Live in Nuremberg (SMP). Perelman’s pensive lines on “Part 5,” for instance, are laced with wistful poetry while Shipp’s reverberating phrases add an expectant ambience. “Part 6” starts with a burst of bittersweet tones and quickly becomes hauntingly elegiac. The overlapping solos enhance the somber, yet warmly intimate, mood.

Poetic tension evolves throughout the entire disc, culminating in the plaintive “Part 10.” Perelman expresses a reserved sorrow while Shipp’s hypnotic refrains hint at a dark mysticism. “Part 11” follows with a dramatic increase in tempo. Perelman blows his saxophone with restrained fury while Shipp percusses the keys with stimulating dissonance. The final piece distills some of the more meditative aspects of this extemporized dialogue as well as its visceral emotions for an exhilarating conclusion.

What is perhaps most remarkable here, as well as on other Perelman and Shipp recordings, is that each artist continues to express his own individuality while exhibiting total synergy with the other. This is a feat that is hard to achieve in rehearsed settings—let alone when creating music on the spot. The inspired performance on Amalgam is always enjoyable and never self indulgent, hence, it makes for a uniquely gratifying listening experience.

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