Luis Perdomo: Walking Towards the Light
Perdomo wrote most of the music and did so with Gress and DeJohnette in mind. "I wanted to write music that featured the best in these two artists. When you have people like that, you don't really need to write that much direction. I wanted to leave a lot of room for stuff to happen in the studio. I wanted to just have a sketch that we could play the melody and go from there without too much written stuff or rehearsal. I didn't want music that was too complicated and have to be stressful in the studio." He adds, in his good-natured fashion, "This is the kind of thing you find out when you're 40 years old. You know better. If I'd have done this record 20 years ago, I probably would have written a lot of music and have a real stressed-out environment in the studio. But now ... make music ... just relax and let it happen."
The project was done in two days. After listening to the drummer for so many years, it was a special time for Perdomo. "From the beginning, when Jack started testing his drums, I was like, 'Wow. That's Jack DeJohnette.'" The pianist had to suppress some of those feelings of awe, so as to not be overwhelmed. "I just went up there and started playing. Right from the first moment there was a hookup. It might have been from all the years that I've been listening to him. I was very familiar with his style."
DeJohnette's stature on his instrument and in the jazz community could have resulted in a drum-dominated record. It didn't. Perdomo says that's another positive attribute of the drummer. "We had a conversation about music. He found out the kind of stuff that I like. He realized that I actually heard him and had listened to all his music. When we went back to record, that's when he brought his A-game. He just went for it. I was in heaven. When I heard that, I was like, 'Yes!' [But] that really impressed me is that Jack has a way he plays. He played, but he never took over the whole session. He just added to it. And made everything musically get to the highest level possible. Not at any moment did I feel like I have to adapt to him. I felt completely free to play the way I play. We were listening to each other, the three of us, very attentively. It was really cool."
Perdomo produced the session, but label owner Coltrane is the executive producer and the pianist credits him as a major reason for the CD's sound.
"He pays attention to little details, sound-wise," says Perdomo of Coltrane wearing a producer's hat. "He's an excellent sound engineer himself. He knows all about the mics. The sound board. What kind of mic should be used on each instrument. He listens to the way the piano sounds in the room. Then, according to that, he figures out the best way to mic the piano, the best way to mic the bass, the drums. Everything. He pays attention to every little detail, as you can hear in the recording. The sound is incredible. A lot of that is because of him."
Perdomo was also allowed free creative rein. "The first time I was offered to make a CD, the promoters wanted me to do a Latin thing. They wanted to tell me, 'You should do this and you should do that.' A lot of the stuff was stuff I wasn't really into. Ravi was the first one who told me, 'Record whatever you want, musically. You be in charge of the music.' That's why I said, 'OK. Let's make a CD.' Every time he has done my CDs, he's the best producer you can get ... From the point of view of the music, he gives very little advice. But whatever he says really makes sense. I totally trust him, blindly. I've played in his band for so many years. He knows what I like, musically. When we're in the studio and he's up there listening, I know he's in touch with what I want to express musically."
With the stellar recording out in 2012, Perdomo is trying to get more gigs as a leader. Naturally, because DeJohnette has his own special career, Perdomo will be playing music with other personnel. He would also like to lead a quartet or quintet when the circumstances allow. But, like many sidemen who try to come to the forefront, the footing can be difficult at first. "Even though people know me at most festivals around the world, when you come with your own project, they don't know you. You've still got to prove yourself. A lot of the fees are not the best thing, and I like to pay decent to my musicians. The trio is the best thing for me to do at this time."