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Saxophonist Ivo Perelman tends to stick to small ensembles – duos, trios, even solos. So it’s a nice surprise to hear him with a sextet. The double album Seven Skies Orchestra puts the NYC-based improviser with five of his frequent flying comrades in an interesting configuration: Perelman, trumpeter Nate Wooley, and vibraphonist Matt Moran augmented by a three piece string section of violist Mat Maneri, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and double bassist Joe Morris. The lack of percussion and chordal instruments (though the vibes can sub for the latter when necessary) slyly removes a steady center from the pieces here, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t drive. Across these two disks, the sextet creates its own core, swimming around each other while following the same current, challenging and supporting each other as they go. Perelman, Wooley, and Moran are already familiar with each other’s moves and know how to respond, but the presence of the strings pushes them outside of their collective comfort zone – Lonberg-Holm in particular seems ready to duel with the boss at every opportunity. You won’t find much aggression here, of course, but there’s plenty of roughhousing, in that way brothers often do. There’s a lot of excitement in the performances on Seven Skies Orchestra, but also a lot of love.
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