Jimmy Halperin (1958, Queens, NY) is a superior Jazz conceptualizer and player who, although he has been on the world scene as a Jazz artist since the‘70s, has remarkably scant recorded documentation of his work. As an alumnus of the Tristano School, it's not surprising that his early studies included work with teachers Lennie Tristano and Sal Mosca. His first recording I remember was as a member of the (1986) Warne Marsh quintet (CrissCross). Then there was a long—too long—passing of time until his 1997 recording (Zinnia) came out; an extended improvised duet with Sal Mosca. Then, a lesser wait until his 2001 trio recording with Don Messina and Bill Chattin came out on Cadence Jazz Records. In between the last two dates—but stillreferencing the Tristano-Marsh-Mosca axis—was a solid session (1998) as a member of the Thomas Andersen quintet (NOR Records), and a privately issued recording by the interesting quartet, Liquid Jazz. Essentially, that is the extent of his recordings known to me. Jimmy says there were a few others, the particulars of which he is very vague.
This time around Jimmy is teamed with what often erroneously has been referred to as "the CIMP house rhythm section": Dominic Duval (1944, NYC, NY) and Jay Rosen (1961, Philadelphia, PA). (As an aside, it's erroneous because the leaders choose whothey will work with and to not encourage that, or for CIMP to act as contractor for sessions, would be counter to the whole concept of artistic choice—one of the tenants of the CIMP system.)
Dominic's association with Jimmy goes back to 1982 and, over the years, he has jammed with Jimmy countless times, impressed by the fact that "Jimmy would come in and just blow the shit out of the standards." In mid 2003, the two began thinking about working things out together in a small group and were trying to find the right drummer when Jimmy showed up at one of Dominic's gigs where Dominic was playing with his longtime associate, Jay Rosen. Jimmy stayed to observe and listen and at that point told Dominic, Jay was the drummer that he wanted. I concur, not just because of the confidence I have in Jay's and Dominic's musical telepathy, but also because their work—without exception—always brings more to the music beyond the general understanding of the role of rhythm section. Instrumentally formidable in their own right, together they often make happen a spontaneous magic that can never be taught. The other point of interest for me is that, for the most part, Jimmy's previous recordings have had pretty strong associations with the Tristano heritage, a background that is not shared with this rhythm section. Understand, I am a Tristano fan, but I am also a fan of fresh artistic situations and challenges, believing that artistry will win out.
The morning of January 14th found the temperature at -30°F, but it had risen to -6°F by the time the group arrived, following their previous night's gig in Rochester. Dominic and Jay settled right in, but adjusting to the inside warmth took Jimmy some time, as evidenced by the fact that he changed his wardrobe 3 times within the first hour. Sound checks were underway by 4 p.m. and so began our first session of 2004 and the beginning of CIMP's ninth year. By 5 p.m., Jimmy (on soprano sax) had blazed through a Bach violin concerto and eventually fell into the Bop canon after Jay started jamming with him—building uphis appetite for supper and, likewise, my appetite for the concert sessions.
After supper, the group fell into some preliminary jams, burnin' against the now -10°F (outdoors) temperature. As they had been jamming on Tunisia, they decided to open with Tunisia and, as is often the case, the first take pulled back in the energy and cohesiveness of the jam. Tunisia's second take pulled it together with its swinging and perhaps irreverant but interesting approach to this seminal Bop anthem. During supper, Jimmy tried to amaze us with his theory as to which came first, the chicken or the egg. At first, we were agog when he pronouned it was the egg and proceeded to reason with others at the table why it was so, only to conclude by the end that perhaps it was the chicken. I thought to myself (after satirically asking if he was bucking for a Nobel), and I wondered how well Bohr, Einstein, orRussell could play the sax. In a similar manner, while listening to Jimmy's solo work on Witch Hunt, I wondered if one would characterize his work as outside in or inside out. Fortunately, the profoundness of the music is not reflected by the profundity of my musings. Inside out...outside in... What's really clear from this music is that Jimmy Halperin is effortlessly original in his take on non-original music. I can think of many players who could play these standards with ease and strength, but few who would do it with such freshness and originality, two qualities that I'm not surethe majority of those who prefer standards would prefer. Just another of those juxtapositions between art and commerce.
Another characteristic of Jimmy's work which I enjoy and which was clearly in evidence on this session was the individuality of his tenor's tone and its C-melody tinge that often dovetails with his sweet and sour sounds. An interesting example of all this can be had when comparing the two approaches to Don't Explain: the tenor take, for me, highlights the tone; the soprano take highlights the conception. That conception, I think, also can be extended into Jimmy's composition, as witness Plazma.
After nearly 4 hours of playing, which accounted for 8 takes used here (7 of them first takes), energies and inspiration peaked and we called it a night. Though the outside temperature was -12°F, we were comfortable in our company, warmed and invigorated by the music.
The next morning it was -19°F and by the time we began (a bit after 9:30 a.m.) Jimmy (again) had been through at least 3 changes or alterations in his dress. By the start of the session on this morning it was mostly black: Harley boots, pants, tanktop, shades, and tuque. On his hands he wore purple and black fingerless workout gloves. Perhaps it was a group look as Dominic and Jay were also all in black or near-black.
They opened with Spanish Castle Magic. Although no fan of Hendrix, this was not the first time his music has been explored on a CIMP session and not the first time I've thought interpretive artists have done more with the compositions' limited DNA than the original source achieved; different strokes ... We finished up the morning and the date with Jimmy's solo thoughts on ‘Round Midnight. Prior to this, the group had played an energized Monk's Dream which included a nice bass solo. At the end I asked them to do another take, at which point Dominic requested could they first to do a ballad in order to give his fingers a renewal. Someone suggested ‘Round Midnight, at which point Jimmy whipped off a brief a cappella piece which suggested to us all that taking it solo might be worthwhile. After about 10 minutes of working out his strategy and a number of incomplete takes, Jimmy put down the take heard here.
And there is much to hear here: joy and gravitas.
Robert D. Rusch - January 15, 2004