«The Purity of Desire» is one of three albums of prolific New York-based Brazilian-American tenor sax player Ivo Perelman released in celebration of his 30th recording career anniversary and 100 albums under his belt. Perelman meets new partners – Canadian oud player (and guitarist) Gordon Grdina and Grdina’s comrade, Iranian-Canadian percussionist Hamin Honari for a free-improvised session. The session was recorded at Parkwest Studios, Brooklyn in January 2020.
The combination of tenor sax and oud is not a common one. Just think of the mixed results of the meeting of Jan Garbarek and Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahen «Madar» (ECM, 1994). Add to the equation the dominant, super-energetic and obviously, passionate, of Perelman, the fact this meeting is fully improvised, with no clear structures or themes to cling to, or to develop the Middle-Eastern ornamentation and rhythmic practices around them, and you have a meeting that its power lies in its challenges and the natural tension between the approach of Perelman and the more reserved and refined approach of Grdina and Honari.
The beginning sounds promising. Honari suggests on the title-track a sensual rhythmic pattern on the frame drum, daf, Perelman dances around it gently and stresses the higher register of the tenor sax while Grdina intensifies the rhythmic interplay. But then Perlamn soars way higher with an ecstatic solo that sounds out of context. The interplay on the following pieces sounds even more tense as if Perelman is doing his own things, abstracting exotic Middle-Eastern scales and sonorities into his own universe while Grdina and Honari take the back seat and offer a solid rhythmic basis for Perelman’s flights (or, if you wish, take Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg description of this kind of playing in the liner notes: «Scott La Faro on acid»). Even when Perelman opts for an introspective and lyrical mode on «Love is a Stranger» he plays-tells melodic stories with bold strokes while Grdina and Honari gravitate into more exquisite conversations.
But as this meeting progresses, the give-and-take between Perelman and Grdina and Honari becomes more balanced and open, as on the free-associative «This Longing» and «A Garden Beyond Paradise». Perelman is still an untamed, free spirit, but now he adapts to the complex and fast Middle-Eastern rhythmic structures and Grdina and Honari have more options to lead and alter the interplay. Perelman even attempts to meet the sonorities of the Middle-Eastern wind instrument zurna on the most lyrical piece here, the ballad «Music of a Distant Drum». The last two pieces «The Joy That Wounds» and «Light Upon Light» bring this meeting to fruition, reaching ecstatic, spiritual climaxes. In the give-and-take game, Perelman still takes more and is still all over the place, but Grdina and Honari have learned how to stretch his sax flights in a manner that would accommodate their rhythmic sensibilities and leave more space for some inspired solos of both of them.
Ivo Perelman (ts), Gordon Grdina (oud), Hamin Honari (daf, tombak)