Ivo Perelman and Nate Wooley
Photo: Burning Ambulance Music

Ivo Perelman and Nate Wooley Go Berserk on ‘Polarity 2’

Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and trumpeter Nate Wooley explore the limits of free jazz on this welcome sequel with its power of boundless musical interplay.

Polarity 2
Ivo Perelman and Nate Wooley
Burning Ambulance
13 October 2023

On Polarity 2, the sequel to 2021’s Polarity, tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and trumpeter Nate Wooley seem only too happy to repeat what they did the first time – create an atmosphere where the two play against each other, with no rules or limits. For Perelman, the Brazilian musician with more than a hundred recordings to his name (going back to the early 1990s), and Wooley, the younger American musician who’s worked with such free jazz luminaries as John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and Evan Parker, this is well-traveled territory for both artists.

The concept is simple: two artists exploring the space without the encumberment of additional instruments. The seven tracks are all numerically titled, giving the project a truly raw, in-the-moment feel. “One” begins tentatively, as if Perelman and Wooley are testing the waters before long; sustained atonal notes serve as a prelude for some more complex, winding, cascading notes. One of them will often play a figure, and the other will repeat it. In the true nature of improvisation, they’re composing on the spot.

“Two” sees the duo getting a bit grittier as Perelman squeaks and honks, and Wooley employs a mute to provide a slightly rougher sound. But while that track employs a distinct playfulness, “Three” starts in a decidedly more tender style, with Perelman taking the lion’s share of the notes as Wooley provides sympathetic and well-meshed accompaniment. Soon, however, the atonal rebellion is back, and they’re trading harsh bursts back and forth – it’s the longest track and the one that sees Perelman and Wooley doing the most musical exploration.

In a way, Polarity 2 (and its predecessor) can be viewed as a musical cousin to Reed Rapture in Brooklyn, Perelman’s lengthy, ambitious 2022 album that saw him collaborating on a series of duets with a dozen fellow reed players, including Joe McPhee, Lotte Anker, and Colin Stetson. The reason why Perelman chose to dive deeper into this concept with Wooley on two separate collaborations – no offense to the previous aforementioned collaborators – maybe because he genuinely uniquely clicks with Wooley.

The duo experiments a bit further in “Four”, as Perelman murmurs, mumbles, and sings nonsense with his voice as Wooley sputters away on the trumpet before Perelman’s sax comes back, taking the song from a curious oddity to true free jazz interplay. For every moment of playfulness, as on the cheeky “Five”, there are long passages of sustained, lyric glory, as on the two remaining tracks, which see Perelman and Wooley digging in with some of the album’s most tuneful moments.

Polarity 2 is a welcome, if unexpected, sequel, a testament to the power of boundless musical interplay. Ivo Perelman and Nate Wooley, deep into their musical careers, are still very much at the top of their game.

RATING 7 / 10