Pianist Oscar Perez has not exactly gone unnoticed. Sure, you may not have heard of him before now. But esteemed trombonist Wycliffe Gordon has taken note, as have saxophonist George Garzone, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and composer George Russell, all of whom have incorporated the young New York-based pianist into their ensembles. Perez shows his ample skill on this first self-released album, incorporating the stylistic elements of Tyner, Hancock, Larry Willis, and Chucho Valdes.
A graduate of the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, the University of North Florida, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Perez has studied with Danilo Perez (no relation) and the late Sir Roland Hanna.
Perez's command of the keyboard is evident throughout Nuevo Comienzo, though most notably when he demonstrates his Fender Rhodes chops on "Early Endeavor, a hard-driving polyrhythmic tune. His sidemen prove particularly impressive as well. Saxophonist Stacy Dillard's soprano soulfully screams into the upper registers on "El Padrino, while drummer Geoff Clapp's crisp hits and guitarist Peter Bernstein's tasteful comping build around Dillard's tenor solo on "Hilltop Arrival. And Gordon reminds us that he is a force to be reckoned with on the trombone, delivering a spectacular, jaw-dropping performance on the through-composed Perez original "Regalo.
If there are any areas to be improved upon, it would seem that Perez's compositions could flow a little bit better and end less abruptly. Parts of "Baile de K and "Regalo just happen, without warning or any sort of logical transitions.
Nuevo Comienzo draws comparisons to the recent efforts of players such as Luis Perdomo, Arturo O'Farrill, Yosvany Terry, and Manuel Valera, all of whom are attempting a hybridization of progressive jazz composition with Afro-Cuban styles like guaguanco and son. Perez does it just as well as any of these cats. It's just a matter of time before his name enters the jazz public's consciousness.
Personnel: Oscar Perez: piano, Fender Rhodes; Greg Glassman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stacy Dillard: saxophones; Anthony Perez: acoustic bass; Geoff Clapp: drums; special guests Angel Desai: voice; Emiliano Valerio: percussion; Wycliffe Gordon: trombone; Peter Bernstein: guitar.