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Luis Perdomo: Focus Point

Tomas Pena By

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Branford Marsalis is always saying that Miguel Zenon, Yosvany Terry, Dafnis Prieto, David Sanchez, Danilo Perez and myself are changing the way Latin jazz is perceived.
Pianist Luis Perdomo grew up in a home filled with music. Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1951, Luis was exposed to the sounds of salsa, Latin-American music, R&B, classical music and jazz by his father, an avid music enthusiast and collector.

Drawn to the piano at an early age, Luis made his early professional appearances on Venezuelan TV and radio at the age of twelve.

It was around this time that Luis started to seriously consider the possibility of pursuing a career as a professional musician. The more Luis listened and to read about the greats—the more he became aware of the fact that most of his favorite artists lived and/or recorded in New York City. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before Luis decided to live, study and perform in New York.

The catalyst to move to New York came in the form of a full scholarship to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. In addition, it was here that Luis began his formal studies in both classical and jazz piano with Harold Danko and Martha Pestalozzi.

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Performance (1997) Luis pursued his Masters Degree at Queens College with the legendary Sir Roland Hanna. Little did Luis realize that his association with Sir Roland Hanna would turn out to be one of the most pivotal moments in his development as an artist. In brief, Sir Roland Hanna made Luis aware of the fact that he still had much to learn about music and the piano.

Which is not to say that Luis's musical education was strictly limited to the classroom. Shortly after relocating to New York Luis quickly established himself as an in-demand sideman, performing with the likes of John Patitucci, Ray Barretto, Brian Lynch, Dave Valentin, Jane Bunnet, John Benitez, Ralph Irizarry, Jerry Gonzalez, Claudia Acuna, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Dafnis Prieto, Miguel Zenon, Ralph Peterson Jr, Hans Glawishnig, Yosvany Terry and others.

In addition, Luis has made his mark as a performer, composer and arranger with groups led by bassist John Benitez and saxophonist Miguel Zenon.

With such impressive credentials, it was inevitable that Luis would eventually form his own band and become a leader in his own rite. Focus Point (RKM Records) brings together some of Luis's friends and fellow musicians - Miguel Zenon, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Peterson Jr., Roberto Quintero, Max King, Miriam Sullivan and Ugonna Okegwo. Furthermore, it showcases his talents as a pianist, composer and arranger.

I was fortunate enough to attend Luis's debut as a leader at New York's Jazz Gallery on September 18, 2004. After two searing sets, I had the pleasure of speaking with Luis about his life and career.

All About Jazz: This evening marks a milestone in your career. How does it feel to be making your debut as a leader?

Luis Perdomo: Well, introducing my work has been quite a challenge. Naturally, being a bandleader requires a different mind-set from being a sideman. Being a band leader involves a lot more responsibility but I welcome it. I have been waiting for this moment for a long, long time {smiles with glee}.

AAJ: The Jazz Gallery has been your musical home for a number of years. Personally, I can't think of a more appropriate venue for you to make your debut as a leader, can you?

LP: In answer to your question, the Jazz Gallery has been very important in my development as a musician. I started playing here in 1999 with the Yosvany Terry quartet and a number of other young, up and coming musicians. Over the years the Jazz Gallery has boosted all of our careers in one way or another.

AAJ: During the 70's and 80' there was an abundance of performance spaces where musicians were able to congregate, rehearse and try out new material in front of a live audience. Today venues such as the Jazz Gallery are far and few between.

LP: It's funny because I have been in New York since 1993 and I had never heard of it until saxophonist Yosvany (Terry) mentioned it.

AAJ: It's true, in many respects the Jazz Gallery remains one of New York's best kept secrets. However, this does not diminishes its importance as a cultural institution and showcase for new talent. Getting back to Focus Point, I see that Ravi Coltrane had a hand in the production . . .

LP: Ravi and I produced the album. However, Ravi is the Executive Producer.

AAJ: Some of the material dates back to your college days. The rest of the repertoire is relatively new. What drew you to these particular tunes? Let's discuss each track one-by-one.

AAJ: Track 1 - "You Know I Know."

LP: I wrote that song while I was in college. It is based on a 12-row series, and it was influenced by the music of Schoenberg. The song has gone through some changes over the years. Initially, It had a different title. However, the most recent alteration was adapting the music to fit a Bata rhythm {imitates the bata rhythm verbally}.

AAJ: Track 2 - Fragments is a short improvisational interlude. How about track 3 - "Book of Life"?

LP: The tune was inspired by (saxophonist) Ornette Coleman's music and my years in junior high school.

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