Venezuelan-born pianist Luis Perdomo is one of a new breed of Latin artists (also including saxophonist Miguel Zenón and pianist Edward Simon) who, while remaining true to their cultural roots, are equally informed by broader interestsincluding modernistic jazz concepts and European classical music. His debut, Focus Point (RKM, 2004), confirmed his forward-thinking ability to find the nexus of diverse styles already evident in his work with Zenón and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.
Awareness is a more stripped-down and conceptually focused affair featuring Perdomo's working trio with bassist Hans Galwischnig and drummer Eric McPherson. The addition of bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Nasheet Waits on five tracks finds Perdomo moving into exploratory territory he only previously hinted at.
Awareness lacks the added colors of saxophones and ethnic percussion that provided the textural diversity of Focus Point, but it's a considerably more urgent set, manifesting Perdomo's rapid growth. The three "Street View miniatures that feature the double rhythm section are freer than anything he's done to date, based on only the barest of sketches to provide the quintet with a general direction. The quintet is also featured on the rubato "Song of the Forgotten and the closing "Tribal Dance, which moves from a strong 12/8 theme suggestive of Coltrane-era McCoy Tyner to a more abstract maelstrom of sound with a complexion all its own.
As open-ended as the quintet tracks are, Perdomo is still concerned with the possibilities of detailed writing, including complex metric shifts and themes that, despite sometimes including knotty constructs, are compellingly memorable. "Nomads twists and turns its way through a stop-and-start theme before turning into a strong solo feature for both Glawischnig and Perdomo. These two players have been working together with both Zenón and drummer Dafnis Prieto, and they've developed an almost frightening musical bond, also shared by relative newcomer Eric McPherson.
Even the more relaxed "Ishtar has an insistence about it, with McPherson straddling the line between Perdomo's defined form and a collective energy that ebbs and flows beneath the constructive focus of Perdomo's vibrant solo. "E's Vibe is darker, and Perdomo's relatively simple theme is broadened by the dense harmonies which support it. McPherson's responsiveness to the gradually building intensity of Perdomo's solo creates a rich tension that breaks when the dynamics drop for Glawischnig's soloa Dave Holland-like mix of lyricism and sharp double-stop punctuations.
The majority of Awareness is more challenging than many contemporary piano trios, but on the fiery "Polaris the trio swings hard with the best of them. Focus Point was one of the strongest debuts of 2004, and Awareness is an equally notable followup which deserves similar accolades this year.
Personnel: Luis Perdomo: piano; Hans Galwischnig: bass; Eric McPherson: drums; Henry Grimes: bass
(1,4,7,9,11); Nasheet Waits: drums (1,4,7,9,11).