Luis Perdomo – Universal Mind (2012)

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photo source: http://www.luisperdomojazz.com/

About fifteen years ago I bought a CD by a jazz pianist I had just heard about that I absolutely dug. Jumpstart! by Michael Wolff (1995) combined a few choice not-overly familiar covers with some compelling, advanced originals, and displaying a good amount of chops in the process. And if that wasn’t enough, Wolff’s rhythm section for these sessions couldn’t possibly be topped: Christian McBride and Tony Williams.

I bring up this record, because when I listen to Luis Perdomo’s upcoming record Universal Mind, I’m getting déjà vu all over again. Like Wolff, this native Venezuelan pianist brings energy and freshness to the ol’ tried and true piano trio concept. But for his forth release, Perdomo brings out the heavy artillery to back him up: bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jack DeJohnette. It’s probably not going overboard to state that any jazz record with Gress and DeJohnette on it cannot be a bad record and I’ll say up front that this holds true on Universal Mind. But Perdomo is the leader and this Ravi Coltrane and Miguel Zenon sideman makes it better still, as a good leader should.

Perdomo as a pianist has a touch that’s neither too light nor too aggressive, and he can really dig into the harmonics of a song as he stays well within range of a song’s core personality. “Tetragon” was a progressive blues when its author Joe Henderson played it, and that’s what it is in Perdomo’s hands. But Perdomo explores a little further out, and Gress follows him around in tight coordination. DeJohnette’s “Tin Can Alley” is more adventurous still and one where Perdomo and DeJohnette are the ones in lockstep, through all the asides and the swing. When it comes to his own songs, Perdomo tends to rely more on the melody and getting the most from them. A wise tactic, since he devised some good ones.

Pensive pieces like “Above The Storm,” Langnau” and “Just Before” (YouTube below) don’t stay in place, moving along in fluid fashion and are recent paragons for modern jazz. Drew Gress, Perdomo’s band mate in Ravi Coltrane’s band, is typcially both steady and melodic, spinning lyrical lines on “Langnau” and “Dance Of The Elephants”, doubles up with Perdomo as key points of songs and just generally holds down the space between piano and drums with quiet aplomb.

Still, you can’t take your ears off Jack DeJohnette. The consummate sideman, he always plays in service of the song and the leader, but does so in forceful way, playing with always sound to me like he has an extra limb. Closer listeners to Jack’s style will instantly recognize it here, but they’ll also recognize he doesn’t’ play the same way for Perdomo as he does for Keith Jarrett, because he’s keenly aware that Perdomo doesn’t play piano the same way as Jarrett. And it’s not always about power: the tom-tom patters he makes on “Dance Of The Elephants” are sublime subtleties. He and Perdomo combined for a couple of extemporaneous duets, “United Path,” parts 1 and 2, where the abilities of both to use restraint, shadings and moods as effective modes for expression just as readily as sheer technical prowess.

Produced faultlessly by Ravi Coltrane, Universal Mind is everything you could ask for from a mainstream jazz piano/bass/drums record: solid compositions, exemplary performances and outstanding rapport. And as Michael Wolff can probably attest, it never hurts to bring in the best rhythm section available to take something good and bring it to a higher level.

Universal Mind goes on sale February 14 by RKM Music. Visit Luis Perdomo’s website.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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