WBGO Radar

Luis Perdomo: Twenty-Two

luis perdomo

How many stars are in the universe? Roughly two hundred billion galaxies of one hundred billion each.

Do the math, and you’ll get a two with twenty-two zeroes after it.

The number twenty-two has personal significance to pianist Luis Perdomo. It was his age when he left Venezuela, the country of his birth, and it's the number of years he has since spent in New York.

As Perdomo contemplated this fulcrum in time, musical inspirations surged into his mind.

“I started remembering the specific moment when I moved, especially my last two days in Caracas and my first two days in New York,” he says. “All these memories that are still very vivid in my mind began coming back.”

The result is his new Hot Tone album “Twenty-Two.” It captures Perdomo’s oneiric journey and creates the most personal statement to date by this gifted and lyrical pianist, one of the brightest stars in New York’s jazz firmament.

The album teams Perdomo for the first time on disc with his wife, bassist Mimi Jones.

“I was afraid for a long time of having her in my band – what if we have a fight, and it affects the music?” Perdomo says with a smile. “But she knows what influences me, what I like and don’t like… and, she’s a great bass player!”

The disc also features drummer Rudy Royston, who chose Jones for his own 2014 debut as a leader, 303.

“Mimi and Rudy have a great relationship… they have like an amazing hook-up, and it feels very natural to me,” says Perdomo.

The group’s name, Controlling Ear Unit, may sound abstract, but to Perdomo it’s completely organic.

It describes a sound, he says, that emerges from his musical maturation and growth. He sums up this approach in two words: patience and trust.

“It’s one of the good things about getting older,” he explains. “When you actually let go, you just find things naturally. They just come to you. You say, ‘Oh, wow! Ok.”

Throughout, the three musicians share a seamless ebb and flow of ideas, in which melodies are allowed to linger and complex musical devices – like “odd” meters - never sound out of place.

He cites saxophonist Miguel Zenón as an inspiration for some of the album’s complex rhythms, such as on “Cota Mil,” an ode to Avenida Boyacá, the east-west artery that divides Caracas.

“They used to be odd (meters) when I couldn’t play them,” says Perdomo. “But from playing with Miguel, they’ve become such a second nature to me. Now it’s like I hear them real clear… and that’s different from what I would have written before.”

Tenor saxophonist Mark Shim also collaborated with Perdomo to structure several tracks.

“Brand New Grays” started out as a simple motif, into which he weaves textures from both acoustic and electric Fender Rhodes pianos.

“Basically it’s an eight-bar song that I kind of made into a little fugue,” he ways. “You don’t have to write it any more complicated than that; just let it be.”

Perdomo and Controlling Ear Unit celebrate the album's release at Smoke May 20, at The Falcon in Marlboro, New York on May 21 and at The Side Door in Old Lyme, Connecticut on June 20. Be there.


  - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer

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