A crowd of about 40 have come out to BoBo Gallery on this windy April evening. It is the usual eclectic scene one expects at this art gallery of a meeting place at the top of Lexington Ave. Some sip wine, others swill beer, while I snag a pint of water and duck into the center room where guitarist Shane Perlowin separates his guitar from the mass of instrumentation and sets up his amp in preparation for two sets of wild music.
One could call the music of Perlowin’s Mind vs. Target “jazz,” but perhaps that may be too general a term to describe this unit. It is jazz, of the avant-garde variety. Think Ornette Coleman, think Charles Mingus, the originators of a few of the standards this group regularly performs. But also think Marc Ribot, and definitely think John Zorn. (Zorn has taken an interest in Perlowin’s other major project, Ahleuchatistas, so much so that he reissued one of their early albums on his Tzadik label.) But now that you have thought about all those great players/composers, forget about them. Mind vs. Target is its own animal.
Being part of Perlowin’s gamut of projects, Mind vs. Target naturally bears some similarity to Ahleuchatistas. Both are top-notch trios that perform purely instrumental music that can be classified as “radical,” as in super-tight music from way left-field. And while both projects perform highly-complicated arrangements, and both employ spaces in the music where the musicians are temporarily freed from the form of the piece to bring forth some chaos of improvised sound, Ahleuchatistas lean more towards the thrash region of the musical spectrum, while Mind vs. Target favors the jazz region. Mind vs. Target may be somewhat more accessible.
The band rapidly sets up and off with a cascade of chords baptizing the audience in the spirit of the music to come. The opening chords wash over and over and over the audience before the band breaks into a secondary melodic form and the hooting crowd realizes why they’ve braved the blustery night. As those in the know press in toward the stage, a bachelorette party from S.C. pays its tab and exits behind the leader of the pack, rhinestone tiara and all. (Just because Mind vs. Target is more accessible than the musical ranting and raving of Ahleuchatistas, doesn’t mean they are accessible in any mainstream sense.)
The musical figure established, Joe Burkette changes up the usual arrangement of this number and takes the lead with a lightening solo on his dusky upright bass. His notes, thick and furious, fill the room, plucked like ripe fruit, pleasing the ears of the gathered. Bass solo complete, we arrive at the stalwart riff that will govern the rest of the song. As Burkette locks in with drummer Michael Libramento’s intricate and steady battery, Perlowin takes flight. It’s going to be a good night.
Mind vs. Target plays Zambra on Fridays, May 9 and 15, at 8 p.m. Ahleuchatistas plays BoBo Gallery on Friday, May 16, with Orange Tulip Conspiracy (featuring members of Secret Chiefs 3). More at shaneperlowin.com.