Courtesy of Ivo Perelman
CHAT WITH IVO PERELMAN
Ivo Perelman is a favorite of our Roadshow readers. This Fireside has
been a year in the making (the saxophonist is a busy man) and the Roadshow
has only been around a year. That is how much we respect Perelman, the
man, the player, the visionary, and the hang it in the wind approach (no,
I should say no approach) he effortlessly tools to create one of the most
memorable discographies in recent years. Ayler, he is not, but he is to
many if not all the critics of the world. I don't like comparisons, but
it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make educated and informed
reviews and commentaries without them. So I understand and feel your pain.
Enjoy folks. As always, I bring it to you, unedited and in his own words.
FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.
IVO PERELMAN: Well, first and foremost, I trained as a classical guitar
player, nylon string guitar. I was playing Via Lobos, Bach music, and
all that. Then I started to feel unsatisfied with the models like you
had to memorize a piece here and I wanted to improvise and so I thought,
"Well, maybe I should play some electric guitar." I tried that and rock
and roll was too much. So I thought, "Maybe jazz is what I need." I started
to play the clarinet. I followed all the Dixieland and I played some Dixieland
back then. Then I said, "I think I want a bigger sound," and I liked Stan
Getz a lot and I thought I was going to be playing like Stan Getz, or
Hank Mobley, or Dexter Gordon. So then I moved to Boston to study at Berklee.
Then as I started to play in sessions, you know, all these lines and things
that I practiced wouldn't come out. Something else would come out and
I didn't know what it was and I got support from other like minded musicians
and slowly I came to realize maybe I shouldn't be playing what was considered
to be jazz, but something else. So I came to New York and I met William
Parker, Duval (Dominic Duval), Jay Rosen, Crispell (Marilyn Crispell),
and I fully realized that there is a new music happening now and that's
where I belong.
FJ: Was bebop boring you?
IVO PERELMAN: No, no, on the contrary, Fred, it stimulated me a lot. I
used to sing solos note by note, whistle it all the time. I loved the
music. I listen extensively. I used to sleep with this music and I would
go to bed listening to all the classics, the Sonny Rollins' groups, and
everything. I listened to McLean and also trumpet players, Clifford Brown,
and on the contrary, never got bored, but the only thing is when it was
time for me to play, it wouldn't come out. Something that I had no control
of would take place. I mean I didn't want to play this music. I wanted
to play bebop. I was practicing lines and changes and blues and standards,
but when it came down to actual playing, it was like, "You know what?
Screw it." Like unconsciously I wouldn't be able to control the flow of
FJ: From a financial perspective, you should have stuck with bebop.
IVO PERELMAN: Totally, yes, because there is a much wider market for bebop,
but it's no problem. This is not where I belong and I don't regret it.
You can only be who you are, right?
FJ: I read the monthly rags and without fail, writers compare you with
IVO PERELMAN: Well, that also depends, meaning, did I ever try to sound
like him? Was he my hero? No, my hero was Mr. John Coltrane. Absolutely,
I had all his CDs until they were lost and stolen in Manhattan. I had
all his CDs and listened to him progressively from his early days with
the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band to his last recordings with Rashied and all
these people. And I wanted to sound like Coltrane and I never heard Albert
Ayler. I read about him and then when I saw his name in my reviews, I
bought his CDs. And at first, Fred, I wasn't really into it. Slowly, I
started to like him. It is a writer's point. In music, I have more in
common with Ayler than Joshua Redman, so it is fair to compare me with
somebody like that. But does that mean that he was my hero? No.
FJ: What drew you to Trane?
IVO PERELMAN: Not his notes, but the unbelievable light and spiritual
power that he could convey through his music. I liked him since his playing
with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band to his last small combos, so it wasn't
the form. It wasn't the context. It was something that transcended that.
It was the unspeakable thing. It was his light, his spirit coming through
FJ: Do you have a favorite Trane release?
IVO PERELMAN: Well, all my CDs were stolen and I never bought them again.
I took it as a sign (laughing).
FJ: A sign of what?
IVO PERELMAN: A sign that you've heard enough. You need silence now. But
what I do listen a lot is Brazilian pop music. Oh, yeah, I love it. I
listen everyday. Brazilian pop singers, Brazilian pop music is one of
the most beautiful music in the world. There is a whole scene there. This
is what I'm trying to sound like, a Brazilian pop singer.
FJ: Is that your approach?
IVO PERELMAN: OK, my approach, Fred, is the no approach. Yeah, every time
I pick up the horn, I expect to be surprised because that's where I get
my kicks from. If I play something, like a sound that I heard or that
I play a line that I played before or I heard somebody play before, I
don't like it. I shy away from that. My process is jump into it completely
open, completely naked. Whatever comes will be the medium. I will just
let it happen. I try not to interfere with it. I try to be out of the
way so that force that compels me to play comes through and is unimpeded
and expands. Is it too esoteric?
FJ: Is playing the saxophone an inherent need for you now? Could you walk
away from it without remorse?
IVO PERELMAN: OK, I was forced to do that. I had a physical problem. I
was practicing too much and recording too much and I developed tendentious.
That was 1996. I did I think like twelve records in a year and I was practicing
like a madman because this was the complementary opposite to my no approach,
which is I loved to practice. Practice is not playing. Practice is like
taking a shower. It is a mechanical procedure. You have to do it. If you
don't take a shower in a week, you will be sick or something. Now, practice
is the same thing. If you don't have that facility available to you, you
won't get certain places and you will be limited and you play this music
to be free, not be limited. OK, so I do practice. I have to practice.
And also, I have to play, so I was practicing a lot and my left arm had
had too much and I couldn't play. I had to put the horn down for six months.
At first, I thought I was going crazy. I realized how much that music
means to me. It operates on the deepest level of my soul. I was literally
going nuts. So thank God, I was diligent at something called the Alexandra
Technique, which became an obsession of mine. I study it to this day I
have immersed myself in that thing, the Alexandra Technique, and slowly
I start to change my lifestyle. I exercise, eat better food, and I regained
my playing condition and I'm still playing music, thank God. But I have
to play. I have to play.
FJ: So it is an absolute necessity.
IVO PERELMAN: Yes, it's a necessity. My day, if I don't play, I feel like
I didn't drink enough water or I didn't eat. Something deep is missing.
FJ: Let's touch on your release on Leo, Seeds, Visions and Counterpoint.
IVO PERELMAN: Well, it was unusual the way it came about because I was
supposed to do a session for CIMP, the label, the Bob Rusch label, and
I had another rhythm section in mind. I had never played with Dominic
Duval and Jay Rosen until then. The other rhythm section was not available
and Bob Rusch suggested that I play with those guys, Duval and Rosen.
And I said, "Fine. Maybe we should rent a studio space and play for a
day and see if there is any affinity at all." I had never heard them before
actually, or maybe once I heard Jay play, but it was a couple of years
before that. So Duval said, "Well, why don't we go to the studio in Long
Island and we can record? It's a cheap studio, but we can record it and
listen to it and analyze it." So we got into the studio and started playing.
We never stopped. We never talked about the music. After that, we had
this music and we said, "Wow. I think we should release that." It doesn't
happen like that everyday. So it was very unusual in that sense and I
realized that I have a lot in common with these guys in terms of music.
FJ: So this collaboration is something that you would like to continue?
IVO PERELMAN: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. I actually just recorded a thing
with him (Dominic Duval) and Jay and Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway,
like the two bass, two drum thing.
FJ: Do you have any release information on that record?
IVO PERELMAN: Well, I am negotiating and sending it to some labels and
it depends on whoever is going to release that. No title yet. It is a
double CD. We just played for a long time and I have material for two
FJ: You put down the tenor saxophone for the cello on a Leo collaboration
with Joe Morris entitled Strings. Were you concerned about the critical
lynching that comes with going out on a limb?
IVO PERELMAN: No, and that type of thing doesn't go through your mind
when you are doing this on that level. You do what you have to do and
you really do what you have to do. You don't think about it. In fact,
Fred, I have a CD where I play piano only that is coming out on Leo this
year. It is a duet with Gerry Hemingway and so it is the same thing. I
just play the piano. It is the same thing that makes me play the saxophone.
Everyday the no approach, I am thirsty for the new like a child. Remember
when you were a child and you never saw an apple? And you saw and apple
and then an orange. What a great feeling, right? So I want music to rescue
that excitement and naivety and purity. Of course, it is easier to get
to that stage when you are playing an instrument that you don't know much
about, right? A lot will be different. That is what made me pick up these
FJ: You mentioned Bob Rusch's label, CIMP (order them through www.cadencebuilding.com),
for which you have done two releases, Slaves of Job with the before mentioned
Jay Rosen and Dominic Duval and Revelation, another with Duval and Rosen,
but this time around featuring Rory Stuart on guitar.
IVO PERELMAN: That was right after he started that label. I think we were
talking about the Blue Monk Variations, the solo album that he released
on Cadence. That was just about when he was launching CIMP and I remember
asking him if that was something I could be a part of and we went from
there. That was 1996.
FJ: For those out of the loop, all CIMP releases are recorded in The Spirit
Room, how is The Spirit Room different from a traditional recording studio?
IVO PERELMAN: Well, it is very different. First of all, Fred, you play
in somebody's living room. This is what it is. It is his living room.
The wife is cooking next door (laughing) and it is very relaxed. He (Bob
Rusch) is sitting there on this couch and taking notes and so it is almost
a jam session. There is no red light on like there is in the studio. It
is warmer. It is much warmer.
FJ: Seems for conducive than a time is money studio.
IVO PERELMAN: I do feel gratitude for the moment in the sense that recordings
are special. It is an opportunity to say something that hopefully will
be recorded and documented for a long time. I do feel gratitude and that
brings on a particular excitement or a particular importance to that moment.
It is not here everyday.
FJ: You've partnered with Matthew Shipp for the Cadence release, Bendito
of Santa Cruz, as well as last year's Brazilian Watercolor release on
Leo. How does Shipp's playing attractively lend to your no approach style?
IVO PERELMAN: I like Matthew's playing because it has a momentum to it
that I can really appreciate. Every note carries to the next. It is like
every note is embedded with this energy that feeds on itself and feeds
the next note. So it is dense. His music is dense without being suffocating.
It is transparent density if that is even a word. I relate to it in terms
of I find a place for me in that musical world.
FJ: On your most recent Leo release, The Hammer, a duo session with Jay
Rosen, there are points on the recording where your intensity level reaches
IVO PERELMAN: Yes, yes, it is the sheer physicality of our human condition.
You warm up. You go crazy. You can't start from five. You start from zero.
FJ: Lastly, a new release on Boxholder Records featuring bassist Wilber
Morris and drummer Michael Wimberley (Info: 802-457-8150), your first
time recording for the label.
IVO PERELMAN: Yeah, it is, yeah. I met Lou Kannenstine (owner of Boxholder
Records) in Canada at a festival and he was very nice and he mentioned
that he had this new label and he was a fan of this music and we kept
in touch. He said, "If you have something that you think I should listen
to, send me it." And I did send him that project and he liked it immediately.
So I am very happy that this is on his label.
FJ: With the dramatic necessity that your inner urge compels musical ideas,
do you ever find yourself getting bored?
IVO PERELMAN: Yes, yes, if I feel that I am coming to a familiar place,
I get bored. I do get bored. So the one thing that is an incredible journey
for me in the past two years is equipment. I never cared to change mouthpieces.
I had the same mouthpiece for over fifteen years. It was a shitty one.
But I didn't know it. I didn't care. I was so into practicing that I didn't
research into it. I had the same saxophone, the first one I bought, the
same mouthpiece, never changed reeds or researched into that area. But
after I got this problem with my hand, I started to experiment with everything
and I am very happy that I did that. This is the antidote to boredom because
it really influences your playing when you change equipment, namely mouthpieces,
ligatures, and reeds. Do you know how many variations on these three things
you can come up with? I will give you a slight example, Fred. For instance,
you have a lot of different brands of mouthpieces. The perimeters that
create the sound within a mouthpiece are immense. You can change details
in it and it will change the sound, the chamber, the facing, the material
that the mouthpiece is constructed and sizes of openings. And then, there
are different reeds. Some reeds are synthetic, different synthetic materials
and everything responds different. On top of that, there is ligature.
There is metal ligature, plastic ligature, leather ligature, ligature
that touches the reed in one spot, two spots, six spots. Combine these
three things together and you can spend a lifetime searching for the perfect
sound, the sound that you hear in your head. I really enjoy that because
I believe I am getting closer to what I hear. That is an antidote to boredom.
Also, playing with different musicians all the time, that stimulates me
a lot when I don't know what's going to come out of a particular individual.
I will be surprised and I like that a lot.
FJ: Who stimulates you?
IVO PERELMAN: You know what, Fred, practically everybody that I've played
with on record. I had a great time and I would like to keep playing. I
have by no means exhausted any relationship that I have established so
far and with these kinds of people, the more you play, the more you grow
as a group. They are open and they have an immense bag of resource material.
They are creative and fresh, mostly every time they play. So if there
are enough labels to document my music, I will be doing this for a long
time. This type of music, you end up knowing everybody that does it because
it is really a small club. There is some musicians over in Europe that
I like. For instance, Han Bennink, I like his playing a lot. I've never
met him or saw him personally. I heard his music on record and I really
like his music. I really like his music. I also like Evan Parker's music.
Hopefully, one day, I can do something with him. Those are two musicians
that come to my mind right now.
FJ: And the future?
IVO PERELMAN: Well, I recorded a duet with Dominic and also, I have been
trying to find the right label for that. Hopefully, someone will pick
it up soon. I did it a few months ago, about four months ago.
FJ: Do you foresee a period when the staggering output you had in 1996
will be equaled?
IVO PERELMAN: Well, it is hard to say, Fred. There is definitely something
about the continuity of the recording process that you can benefit from.
Absolutely, you grow. You grow because you have to constantly find new,
fresh ways to surprise yourself and make the music fresh and so if you
keep doing it, it is a blessing. But I don't think that the market can
accommodate that flow of records. Every time I go to Tower Records, I
see more and more records and more and more new players coming all the
time. Where is all this recording output going to? So it is a limited
market. That is the reality of it. Just because of that, I don't know.
From the artistic standpoint, yes, absolutely. But realistically, unless
I start releasing these CDs on my own label, which I don't foresee doing,
I don't think it is realistic to think that will happen from the commercial
market, business point of view.
FJ: With major like Verve (Impulse!), Columbia (Columbia Legacy), RCA
Victor, Warner Bros. and Blue Note (Capitol) releasing both new records
and reissues concurrently and indie labels and artist owned labels releasing
records, one on top of another, at one estimate over seven hundred improvised
music releases per month, can the market sustain such incalculable growth
to support this music and those who sacrifice to make it?
IVO PERELMAN: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think the major loss
is the artistic expression and the condition for the public to appreciate
art. I think that in this high number of releases, I think record companies
have a hard time already being sensitive to the artistic output of the
artistic community. Their role is to make the art available to the public.
With these enormous amount of records, it dilutes the artistic potency
of the project. I mean, there is just too much to divert the public and
it is almost a use it and throw it away the next day approach like Kleenex.
There is just too many. It is just too easy to record.
Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and has the dot com blues. Email