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Luis Perdomo: Focus Point

John Kelman By

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A focus point refers to the place where many things, often disparate, converge into one. Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, who has emerged onto the vibrant and cosmopolitan New York live scene in the past few years, provides an apt example. His début release of the same name exposes a player who, while unquestionably rooted in Afro-Cuban concerns, has far broader interests, yet manages to tie them together with a personal style that is cogent, clear and, well, focused. Artists with diverse interests often term their music "eclectic" as an excuse for a lack of direction, but Perdomo clearly has a vision that ties everything together into what is certainly an early frontrunner for '05.

How to describe an artist whose interests range from the puckish, almost Michael Brecker-ish theme of "You Know I Know"—featuring drummer Ralph Peterson Jr., who has only recently come to things Afro-Cuban with his own Fo'Tet Augmented , but manages to imbue it with his own inimitable and unrestrained sense of swing—to the ECM-like introversion of "Procession," featuring a haunting arco theme from bassist Carlo DeRosa? The fact is that Perdomo, while clearly coming from the same wellspring that most young pianists do—Corea, Evans, Jarrett, Hancock and Tyner—is already in possession of a blended style that references all these sources and yet has a stylistic élan all its own.

Perdomo is capable of intense and expressionistic lyricism on "Dreams," a duet with tenor saxophonist Max King; free association on the solo pieces "Fragments," "Impromptu" and "Spirit Song - Part 1"; more overt Latin musings on the samba-based "San Millan"; and a looser improvisational approach on "Book of Life," with its elliptical theme and more abstractly exploratory solo section. He combines an intuitive improvisational sensibility with a compositional approach that ranges from rough sketch to complex arrangement.

The album places Perdomo in a variety of ensemble contexts, from "Book of Life," sporting a quintet featuring the powerful saxophone frontline of Miguel Zenon and executive producer Ravi Coltrane, to quartet pieces like "Spirit Song," trio excursions including "Procession," and the aforementioned duet and solo tracks. With a shifting lineup whose only constant is Peterson, the album is sequenced in such a way as to give it an evocative narrative arc.

It's too early to tell exactly what kind of impact Perdomo will have. Circumstances beyond his control may or may not scuttle his ability to gain broader recognition. But if talent alone is to be the determining factor—and Perdomo is not only one of the more refreshingly innovative pianists to emerge in recent years, but a fine composer who succeeds in centering his divergent musical tastes into a clear conception—then Focus Point will surely be considered an important event that will ultimately be looked upon as the start of a significant career.

Track Listing: You Know I Know; Fragments; Book of Life; Procession; San Millan; The Stranger; Spirit Song -- Part 1; Spirit Song -- Part 2; Dreams; Breakdown; Impromptu

Personnel: Luis Perdomo (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), Ralph Peterson Jr. (drums), Roberto Quintero (batas, Afro Venezuelan percussion), Carlo DeRosa (bass), Miriam Sullivan (bass), Miguel Zenon (alto saxophone), Ravi Coltrane (tenor and soprano saxophones), Max King (tenor saxophone)

Title: Focus Point | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: RKM Music

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