Saxophonist Ivo Perelman starts this album playing the kazoo. For two and a half minutes. Still reading? Good, because after that, the piece in question, the album’s title track, is an above-average hunk of free-jazz exploration. It helps that Perelman has players with the skills of bassist Joe Morris and drummer Gerald Cleaver behind him. What’s more, in recent years, he’s become an impressive saxophonist. The Brazilian-born reedman possesses both the full tone and the ability to blend unfettered screeching with dignified melodic blowing for which Louie Belogenis and David Murray are justly respected.
When Perelman first emerged during the ’90s, he seemed like an energetic amateur who’d somehow convinced the cream of the New York City’s free-jazz scene to record with him. With titans like Charles Gayle and David S. Ware around, Perelman appeared destined for second-tier status. But through sheer dogged productivity — his discography is dozens of albums deep — and gradual improvement of his core skills, he’s become increasingly worthy of free-jazz fans’ attention.
Family Ties has flaws. Tracks are frequently too long. By the five-minute mark of the 25-minute “Love,” listeners’ attention is already wandering. And at several points, Perelman’s playing devolves into mere tribute to his influences and peers. But his sympathetic rhythm section keeps the music swinging — or the free/out-jazz equivalent thereof — which, in turn, makes it more compelling than total freedom. Although this disc is unlikely to convert neophytes to Perelman’s cause, longtime fans will find it one of his more viscerally pleasing efforts — provided they can endure those initial minutes of kazoo.
— Phil Freeman