The story goes that in April 2013, at Balazs Pandi’s invitation, Ivo Perelman went to The Stone in Manhattan to hear the drummer play in Slobber Pup, alongside Joe Morris on guitar, Trevor Dunn on electric bass and Jamie Saft on keyboards. His reaction: “I had to cover my ears at times because I wasn’t used to hearing such intense music. And as I watched them I thought that if we played together it would sound great with Joe on electric bass, just to give it that punch to match Balazs’ intense backbeats.”
Their studio date, recorded May 2013, bears him out. But, highly charged as it is, this is still a supremely musical power trio. The opening salvo on One (Rare Noise), “Freedom”, is pretty intense, but only at the finale do Pandi’s backbeats tumble into anything like an echo of the fearsome blast beats of which he’s capable. And “What Love Can Lead To” is identifiably free-jazzy, with Perelman pursuing a steely melodic idea while Morris’ elec. bass rumbles around Pandi’s broken rolls and cymbal splashes; and there’s real tenderness in the brief coda.
“To Remember What Never Existed” pushes a little harder, toward something comparable to Peter Brötzmann’s electric Blast First trio, but where Blast First’s Marino Pliakas and Michael Wertmüller (mostly) channel their energies into a close weave, Morris and Pandi are (mostly) more discursive and interrogational. From the get-go, as he recombines a palpably rhythmic impetus on the fly, Morris’s bass playing ventures way outside the bass player’s usual rhythm keeper’s role, though he’s too canny to abandon it altogether. Before the track is done he’s playing repeating pattern’s in time with Pandi’s roiling percussion.
Morris is perhaps best known as an improvising electric guitarist. His adoption of the bass is relatively recent, but in contexts such as his own acoustic Bass Quartet he’s made some of his best and most accessible music (witness that ensemble’s outstanding High Definition, which I reviewed for the Jazz Mann in 2009). Now all of his experience channels into nonpareil electric bass playing, which is superbly showcased in the seven-minute title piece, a questing duet for bass and saxophone that constitutes the heart of the album.
The heat rises on “Universal Truth”, a touch more intensity overall and an accompanying shift in gear: a dynamic bass/drums break thrums with inventive energy, picked up with urgency on the saxophone’s re-entry, and ending only with Pandi’s solo coda of curtly punchy percussion breaks.
“Stigma” picks up where “Universal Truth” left off, but over the next sixteen minutes the trio allow themselves to stretch out. Perelman grabs a melodic solo four minutes in, but Pandi comes back with compacted backbeats, goading the saxophonist to worry away, really tear into his lines, and there’s that old ferocious beast, off the leash again. The mature Perelman has mastered his impulses though, and can spare some thought for stock-taking, so there’s an unexpectedly musical yielding before a final surge of power play brings this album to its climax.
Ivo Perelman tenor sax; Joe Morris bass; Balazs Pandi drums.