“A rather amazing improviser, the pianist is making a name for himself by feverishly assaulting the progressive edge of mainstream jazz.” — Village Voice.
“Mr. Perdomo plays with deep sonority, rhythmic aplomb, and an ear for useful dissonance.” – New York Times.
There are moments in music when an artist illuminates the scene with imagination, virtuosity, and, above all, an undying dedication to swing. Pianist/composer/bandleader LUIS PERDOMO is at that moment!
Ever since he came to New York in 1993 from Venezuela, Perdomo has emerged as one of the most in-demand sidemen – as evidenced by his celebrated work with a wide array of jazz and Latin stars – from Ravi Coltrane to Ray Barretto and by his six critically- acclaimed recordings as a leader. The release of his magnificent new Hot Tone label debut CD, 22, features bassist Mimi Jones’ supple, deep basslines and drummer Rudy Royston’s quicksilver rhythms in a trio he christened The Controlling Ear Unit. “I wanted to create an environment where a sensitive player could make his own musical choices without fear of the consequences,” Perdomo says. “The word ‘unit’ is appropriate because although the current group is a trio, it doesn’t have to be restrained to that. It could have a different format, depending on what the music calls for.”
On 22, save for his elegant rendition of the Bees Gees’ classic ballad “How Deep is Your Love,” Perdomo delivers a stunning set of original compositions inspired mainly by his adopted and native hometowns and that mysterious number.
“2015 marks my twenty-second year living in New York City, and I left my hometown when I was twenty-two years old,” he says. “I remembered the exact moment when I moved and the feelings I had had at the time…especially during the last two days in Caracas and the first two days in New York City. There again, I saw the two and two formula and realized that there was a little recurring theme there. So I began scoring all those memories and trying to convey them through music: translating some dates that were very significant to me into notes.”
Perdomo’s lyrical and logical pianism embodies Bud Powell’s bop-at-the-speed-of- swing, Oscar Peterson’s technical brilliance, and Ahmad Jamal’s melodic genius. And his numbers-into-notes compositional technique, which he learned from Richard DeRosa, an instructor from his Alma Mater, the Manhattan School of Music, forms the basis of two songs: “Cota Mil,” a funky, labyrinthine, Patanemo-grooved number named after a prominent highway north of Caracas, which derives its compositional motifs from the dates of the Venezuelan Battle of Independence in 1821 and the Batalla de la Juventud/Battle of the Youth in 1814. The martial, “Days Gone Days Ahead,” was inspired by the day Perdomo got his US Student Visa on 8/13/93.
The rest of the CD’s tracks showcase the infinite variety of Perdomo’s musicality. “Love Tone Poem” is a wistful, 5/4-metered ballad dedicated to Jones, and “Two Sides of a Goodbye” is a funereal, avant-garde work that conjures up Perdomo’s melancholy when he left his family at the airport in Venezuela. In contrast, “Old City” is an uptempo sound portrait of the un-gentrified Manhattan of the early nineties, where jazz clubs like Bradley’s, The Village Gate, Fat Tuesday, and Sweet Basil’s reigned supreme. Perdomo’s evocative sound on the Fender Rhodes is also featured on the bouncy backbeat of “A Different Kind of Reality,” the contrapuntal “Light Slips In,” “Brand New Grays” and the funkified “Looking Through You.”
Two tracks, “Weilheim (to Gerry Weil)” a reverent mid-tempo piece dedicated to Perdomo’s first teacher, the Austrian-born jazz pianist/educator Gerry Weil, and “Aaychdee (to Harold Danko)” – named after jazz Danko’s publishing company,” are Perdomo’s sonic shout-outs to his former piano teachers. “The biggest lesson I received from Gerry Weil in Venezuela was to keep my mind open to all types of music,” he says. “With Harold (his instructor at MSM), that was the first time I heard jazz from an American point-of-view. That was a total revelation to me.”
Born in 1971 in Caracas, Perdomo, from the age of 12, was playing on Venezuelan TV and radio stations. Still, he eventually realized that he would have to travel to New York City to fulfill his musical destiny. “Being in a more competitive and challenging environment was a big change that I welcomed,” he says.
In 1993, Perdomo relocated to New York and enrolled with a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. He studied with Harold Danko and classical pianist Martha Pestalozzi and earned his BA in 1997. Perdomo later studied with pianist extraordinaire Sir Roland Hanna at Queens College and received his Master’s Degree in 2000. “Studying with Sir Roland Hanna … “I began to look at jazz and classical music in a new and more in-depth way, and my playing evolved accordingly,” he says. Perdomo has appeared on over two hundred records and has become a first-class sideman to artists like Dave Douglas, David Sanchez, Tom Harrell, Steve Turre, Ben Wolfe, Ray Barretto, Brian Lynch, David Gilmore, Conrad Herwig, Ignacio Berroa, Ralph Irizarry and Timbalaye and other great musicians. He was a member of Ravi Coltrane’s Quartet for ten years and is a founding member of the Miguel Zenon Quartet. Perdomo was recorded on three Grammy-nominated CDs: Coltrane’s Influx, Zenon’s Esta Plena, and Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook.
Perdomo’s recordings as a leader include Focus Point (2005), Awareness (2006), Pathways (2008), the critically-acclaimed Universal Mind (2012), with Jack DeJohnnette and Drew Gress, The Infancia Project (2012) and Links (2013).
This brings us to 22: a fantastic recording that shows how far Luis Perdomo has come and forecasts where he is going.
Spirits and Warriors (2016)
The Infancia Project (2012)