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Luis Perdomo: Venezuelan Connection

Jason Crane By

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AAJ: Explain what those terms mean.

LP: When you play piano, a lot of people just stomp on the sustain pedal. You press it all the way down and then release it. But Roland had a way of pressing the pedal just a quarter of the way, and he would get this echo in the piano. It was great the way his pedaling was. He would play loud, but it wasn't the kind of loud that would make you say, "Stop!" It was a nice, big sound.

And sometimes he would tell me, "Luis, you're playing a lot. You're making a little money. It would be good if you went to Carnegie Hall or Alice Tully Hall [at Lincoln Center] and started checking out different piano players. Classical piano players. Buy a ticket and sit right in front of the pianist so that you can really see what they're doing with the pedals and hear all the tone that they're getting out of the piano."

It was an experience for me to study with Roland because he opened my eyes to the full possibility of the piano. Before, I would sit there and press the keys down and it makes a sound and that's it. Roland said, "No, now you've got to play the bass and make the bass sing." I started thinking of the piano as an orchestra, not just 88 keys. I started seeing it as 88 different instruments.

After I graduated from Queens College, Roland told me, "Now you're getting your degree and you might think that you're ready, but you're not. If you have the time, keep coming to your lessons." He gave me free lessons every week for a year. That was the kind of teacher that Roland was.

luis perdomo

Luis Perdomo (left) with Ravi Coltrane

AAJ: When you graduated, did you start getting calls right away and increasing the number of gigs you were playing?

LP: I guess I really started playing a lot in 2001, which is about the time that I finished taking lessons with Roland. In 2001 I started playing with [saxophonist] Ravi Coltrane. I also started playing with [percussionist] Ray Barretto. I guess at the time, I was also doing some gigs with John Patitucci.

AAJ: How did you meet all these people?

LP: There was friend of mine, a percussionist from Venezuela, named Roberto Quintero. He came to New York and he was playing in a salsa band with La India, the singer. At some point they needed a pianist. He knew I was in New York—this was in 1996. So he introduced me to the musical director. That's how I got the gig with La India. I played salsa for about a year, which was good for me because I wasn't making much money. After that, [Quintero] introduced me to Marlon Simon, [pianist] Ed Simon's brother, who is a drummer. He also introduced me to Ralph Irizarry, who's a percussion player.

AAJ: He's the leader of Timbalaye, right?

LP: Yeah. After I met Ralphie, he called me and asked me to join Timbalaye. I was in Timbalaye for eight years. We did three CD's and a whole bunch of tours in Europe. With Marlon we did a record called Rumba a la Patato (Cubop, 2000). I was in Marlon's band for a while. Playing with Marlon, I got introduced to [trumpeter] Brian Lynch, who was also playing with Marlon. Through Brian Lynch I got introduced to [drummer] Dafnis Prieto and [saxophonist] Yosvany Terry. Playing with Yosvany Terry, I got introduced to [singer] Claudia Acuña and [pianist] Jason Lindner. At some point, Jason needed a sub in Claudia's band, so I subbed. We went to Japan. That's where I met John Patitucci. It all goes like that. It's not like I went to places and said, "Hey, I'm a pianist. Call me." It takes longer this way, but that's the way it works for me.

AAJ: You've been working quite a bit in recent years with two saxophone players: Ravi Coltrane and Miguel Zenón.

LP: Right. I met Ravi playing with Dafnis. And I did a recording with bassist John Benitez called Descarga In New York (Khaeon, 2001); Ravi was on that record. That might have been in April of 2001, and I've been playing with him since.

As for Miguel, the bassist in Miguel's band is Hans Glawischnig. We went to school together. We had a trio and we used to play all the time at Hans's Place, which was around the corner from the Manhattan School of Music. One day the drummer, who was also going to Manhattan, said, "There's this guy at school named Miguel. You should check him out." So Miguel came to Hans's place and we played, and he became a regular. Then we started doing jam session with Miguel, Hans, myself, and Danny Weiss, the drummer. Danny plays with saxophonist David Binney. That's how we all met.

At the time that Miguel started getting his own gigs, he just called Hans and me right away because we knew the music. I've been playing with Miguel since 1999. It's been a while.

AAJ: And you've made three records together.

LP: Three records, and we're about to do another one.

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