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For the latest addition to his prodigious discography, prolifically inventive saxophonist Ivo Perelman convened a stellar quartet that is at once a first meeting and several small reunions. Consisting of a half-dozen breathtakingly expressive improvisations, The Hour of the Star documents the first-ever conjoining of Perelman with pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

“The process is just what I’ve been doing for the past twenty years,” Perelman says. “I trust them, I take it they trust me, and we just go in and play. Everything’s a first take and what you hear is what you get. That’s why I like this kind of work, because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s stimulating.”

First meeting though it may be, these musicians are hardly strangers to one another. Perelman and Shipp recorded together several times in the late 1990s, and once with Morris, on the 1997 duet album Strings. While this is the leader’s first encounter with Cleaver, the drummer has an extensive record with both Morris and, especially Shipp; and Morris has been working in Shipp’s trio continuously over the past several years.

Still, the context of this album marks it as a remarkable new beginning, beyond the almost fifteen years between collaborations. Perelman last recorded with Shipp at a moment when the Sao Paulo-born saxophonist was exploring the fusion of his lyrically abstract sound with Brazilian folk music. Their duo conversation from 1998’s Bendito of Santa Cruz is resumed here on “The Right To Protest.”

“Matt’s very responsive,” Perelman says. “Also, his ideas come in a very original way. His style is very unique; you can go anywhere and he’ll be there with you. His playing has become more focused, more mature, and more eloquent in the sense that I think he says just the right thing.”

Besides resuming his work with Shipp, The Hour of the Star marks Perelman’s first recording with any pianist in more than a decade. It took a few minutes – though only a few – to readjust his thinking. “The piano occupies a huge space in my musical canvas. Especially Matt, whose playing is so wide in range. So it took me a while to see where I fit in, because for so many years I didn’t have that constraint. I had the whole spectrum open for me to occupy. But it’s like riding a bicycle; once you learn, you’ll always be able to do it.”

The change in Perelman’s playing relationship with Joe Morris is even more radical; on Strings, Morris played his primary instrument, the guitar, while Perelman switched to cello. Now, Perelman returns to his more comfortable tenor while Morris picks up the bass, on which he’s concentrated increasingly in recent years.

“It’s great to hear Joe Morris on bass because I like his musical thinking, and his musical thinking is still there whether he plays the bass or the guitar,” Perelman says. “And the bass, it establishes a whole new relationship, a whole new set of problems and solutions that I enjoy.”

With no history between them, calling on Cleaver was more of a leap of faith – but an inspired one. His drumming, which deals more with color and texture than with propulsion, provides an ideal counterpoint to Shipp’s at times torrentially percussive pianism. “He’s so subtle,” Perelman says of Cleaver. “Particularly in a jazz combo, drums are thought of as playing all the time, but every note they play, every time they hit a cymbal or a snare, it occupies a space; it says something. A lot of jazz drummers overplay – if that was a guitarist or a trumpeter, it would be unbearable. But drummers like Gerald Cleaver are so nimble, soft, subtle; he’s just pinpointing directions, he’s not so forceful. It’s a caressing drumming sound that I enjoy playing to.”

Ivo Perelman Quartet

The combination of Morris and Cleaver wound up being such a potent inspiration that Perelman pared the group down to a trio for two tracks, “Singing the Blues” and “As For the Future.” The result came as a revelation. “I realized I have two bands here – a trio and a quartet. When Matt isn’t playing, it’s not just the quartet minus Matt, it’s more. It’s a new band, a trio with a whole different personality.”

While “Singing the Blues” in particular captures perfectly the essence of the track, the bluesy direction was not discussed beforehand and the title, like every track on the disc, comes from the name of a chapter in the work of Brazilian author Clarice Lispector. “Her books affects me very deeply,” Perelman says of Lispector, whose work also provided names for four of his previous albums. “I can only read a sentence or a paragraph at a time because they’re so powerful. I can’t handle it; I keep thinking about it the whole day. Not cognitively, but it affects me like an abstract painting.”

Painting is also an inspiration, as represented by the cover art of The Hour of the Star, a piece by the saxophonist himself. As with the Lispector titles, connections between his art and music are made only after the fact, when parallels suddenly become evident and unmistakable. It’s simply more evidence of Perelman’s intuitive creativity, which applies to music, painting, or assembling a quartet.

“I think this project is a turning point for Ivo Perelman the individual musician,” he says. “Now add to that the opportunity to play with young masters like Joe and Matt and Gerald, and that makes for a very strong statement.”

Ivo Perelman Quartet · The Hour of the Star
Leo Records · Release Date: July 12, 2011

For more information on Ivo Perelman, please visit: http://www.IvoPerelman.com

For more information on Leo Records, please visit: http://www.LeoRecords.com