By Hrayr Attarian
Ivo Perelman Trio Garden of Jewels
Ivo Perelman – Tenor saxophone
Matthew Shipp – Piano
Whit Dickey – Drums
Saxophonist Ivo Perelman had a productive 2020, releasing several superb recordings with various ensembles. He starts off 2021 with a bang as well, with the stimulating Garden of Jewels. On this entirely improvised set Perelman joins two long-term collaborators and kindred spirits, pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Whit Dickey, for eight tracks named after a variety of precious stones.
The performances range from contemplative and wistful to fiery—all the while maintaining thematic unity. For instance, “Onyx” opens with solemn quietude as Shipp’s sparse and resonant notes echo in silent pauses, while Dickey’s intermittent rustles and thuds add an expectant feel to the ambience. Perelman enters with melancholic musings that simmer with understated passion. Shipp and Dickey respond with percussive bursts that create a multilayered piece of dissonant lyricism and darkly hued lucidity.
In contrast, “Amethyst” starts off with Perelman’s yearning wails to which Shipp contributes swirling chords, and Dickey, exacting beats. The fast-paced and thrilling conversation takes unexpected and angular turns, resulting in a crystalline tune that is simultaneously emotive and cerebral. The trio’s hypnotic refrains flow towards a pensive and serene conclusion.
Similarly, “Emerald” mixes somber poetry with incandescent expression for an absorbing group extemporization. Perelman’s fluid and mournful lines form an otherworldly, sacred hymn. Shipp makes his keys toll and chime while Dickey’s restless polyrhythms fade in and out of the haunting backdrop.
The three musicians’ divergent, yet complementary, styles are heard throughout and—perhaps—best on the energetic “Tourmaline.” Individual solos intersect, overlap, and interweave for a provocative and prismatic piece. Perelman builds his out of brief honks and poignant, muscular phrases. Dickey’s kit thunders and Shipp lets loose with breathtakingly agile pianism. Their collective sound is sophisticated in its inventiveness and elegant in its fury.
Garden of Jewels demonstrates, once again, that Perelman is a uniquely accomplished artist whose prolific output is matched only by his brilliance. This intriguingly explorative work delights with its textured construct, thanks in great part to Perelman’s equally innovative colleagues. The sublime album is cerebral without being abstruse and visceral while eschewing self-indulgence and, as such, is a gem in its own right.