Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Luis Perdomo in a Commanding Lead

<---("Meet the Artist": Bob Blumenthal and Luis Perdomo)

As a young man learning piano in Caracas, Venezuela, Luis Perdomo learned about jazz from his father, who loved it and had an extensive record collection.

At every opportunity young Luis listened to the music, bought CDs (Tom Harrell's "Visions" and anything by Cecil Taylor were among those mentioned), and began to notice that all of his favorite ones were recorded in New York City. The seed was planted.

But even for a pianist so talented and capable at such a young age, it wasn't a linear career path. In this evening's "Meet the Artist" session with Bob Blumenthal, Luis Perdomo described graduating from highschool, applying to colleges, and getting accepted at one (as a biology major). On the very day he was scheduled to leave for college, Venezuela experienced the second of two coup attempts in the same year (1992) by then-Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez. Perdomo never found his way to the University.

It was the offer of a full scholarship a year later to the Manhattan School of Music that set Perdomo on his life path - and, the path to the city he'd always dreamed of living in.

(Perdomo, photo courtesy of Mariah Wilkins Artist Management, LLC)--->

I first discovered Perdomo through his work in the John Benitez Trio, on the 2001 CD called "Descarga in New York". I had actually picked it up because Ravi Coltrane was featured on the recording as a guest soloist, and I try to give a listen to everything Ravi does. But I found myself listening to the CD over and over again for another reason: the piano work. Perdomo's piano work. Artful, strong, supportive but very individual. Striking. This many years later I can still say the same thing, and even moreso as his particular voice as a performer has continued to develop and strengthen.

Perdomo's funny. A self-identified "geek" who's "low-key and boring", he describes himself as the guy who sits quietly in the corner by himself at parties. (You'd never guess that's how he thinks of himself, from his extroverted, muscular performance style!)

When asked about the differences between being a leader and a sideman, he said "I like being in a band without the responsibility of being a leader." Then, talking to Bob directly, he continued, "Like when we just got done eating, earlier? I had to come here. The band is still in the bar eating. If I was Ravi or Miguel tonight," [the leaders of the two other groups he plays with] "...they'd be here, and I'd be sitting at the hotel watching TV or surfing the internet." (We all laughed at that thought.)

At the same time, Perdomo admitted that in being a leader he's able to fulfill certain creative objectives in a way that can't be done as easily as a sideman.

He was equally thoughtful when reflecting on the different quality of music that's produced from a group of players who have been together for a long time: "After you've been with a group of guys for a year or two you're not looking at the page anymore, you're listening. You're playing music based not on what's written, but on the other musicians."

In the 8:30pm FlynnSpace concert, Perdomo was joined by bassist Hans Glawischnig and percussionist Eric McPherson.

No question, he was the leader.

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