Over the last three decades, saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp have assembled a staggering catalog of releases. They made three albums together in the late 1990s, then pursued separate creative paths until the beginning of this decade, when one of the most explosive creative runs in jazz history began. They have released over 30 titles together, including several multi-disc sets with more to come. In addition to duo sessions, they work in all sorts of trio and quartet configurations, bringing in bassists, drummers, violinists or anyone else who seems like an interesting complement to their constantly evolving one-on-one language.
The overwhelming (and that’s the word for it) majority of this music has been released on the Leo label, though Ineffable Joy, with bassist William Parker and drummer Bobby Kapp, recently appeared on ESP-Disk. And a new live album has just emerged, on the tiny SMP label. Live in Nuremberg was recorded in June 2019 at a festival called “The Art of Improvisation,” and consists of a 55-minute performance, followed by a four-minute encore.
Because all their performances, live and in the studio, are improvised ex nihilo, there are only a few aesthetic strategies available to Shipp and Perelman. They can either engage in a sort of delicate call-and-response, they can take turns soloing, or they can perform simultaneously but not together, with one or the other dominating as the other plays catch-up. They do all of these things over the course of the hour-long Nuremberg concert. The music begins delicately, with Shipp picking out individual notes as Perelman explores the tenor saxophone’s sharper registers, frequently sounding like a kazoo or a duck call. Later, the pianist takes an extended solo, and afterward the two seem to be working in a more unified fashion. At times, Perelman plays nearly conventional melodies — albeit ones that retain an Albert Ayler-esque crying quality — as Shipp strikes sharp, forceful chords. The main performance ends with a pounding, staccato series of unison blasts from saxophone and piano, before Perelman, who goes so far up into the tenor’s upper register that it sounds like Wayne Shorter‘s soprano at times, comes back down into lyrical phrases that end with soft hissing exhalations and the tapping of the keys.
The four-minute encore is fascinating, because it almost feels as though the collective energy they built up over the course of the previous 55 minutes must now be recovered and rebuilt all over again. They return to simultaneity rather than collaboration, Shipp creating a hard-punching foundation with occasional flourishes while Perelman vanishes on his own journey as though he’s up there alone. Still, they bring the music to a gentle landing, ending the evening on a graceful, relaxed note.
This is a limited edition release, only 300 copies, and it’s not available digitally or on streaming services. If you want to hear it, order it straight from the label.