Occasionally a song will grab you out of nowhere and shake out the cobwebs. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Luis Perdomo’s “Cota Mil” on the radio (shout to WNCU). I’d been aware of Perdomo and his new album, Twenty-Two, but hearing this tune made it clear that I’d been sleeping on something that needed to be checked out much more thoroughly. After spending a bit more time with Twenty-Two and with “Cota Mil”, those initial impressions were more than confirmed.
Most of Twenty-Two features Perdomo on acoustic piano with bassist Mimi Jones and drummer Rudy Royston, a trio that Perdomo is calling the Controlling Ear Unit. In the acoustic setting, Perdomo writes very pretty tunes that are reminiscent of some of the more recent work from Brad Mehldau. “Love Tone Poem”, which opens the album, and “Two Sides of a Goodbye” are a couple of fine examples of this acoustic playing, with sensitive, melodic piano playing from Perdomo and a solid rhythmic backing from Jones and Royston. While the album has Perdomo as the trio’s leader, both Jones’ bass and Royston’s drums are necessary for this album to come together as well as it does. Jones has a number of strong bass solos throughout, with a particularly standout solo on “Looking Through You”, and the bass sounds fantastic in the mix – a great recording. She also adds wordless vocals to “Aaychdee” in unison with Perdomo’s piano to give that tune something of a different feel from the rest of the album. Royston’s drumming, always solid in a wide variety of bands, is particularly strong here. Several of the tunes on Twenty-Two include a drum solo or drum feature toward the end of the tune. Check “Old City” or “A Different Side of Reality” for a couple of great drum features.
“A Different Side of Reality”, in addition to featuring a great drum solo, is also the first tune on Twenty-Two to feature Perdomo on the Rhodes piano rather than acoustic. As good as this trio sounds on the acoustic piano, it’s the tunes with the Rhodes that really grab my ear and likely will appeal to many nextbop readers. With Perdomo on the Rhodes, Jones and Royston’s backing pushes forward with a bit more momentum and the band builds up to an intense peak. While the Rhodes is often used in a funk or indie-rock setting, it is relatively rare to hear it in this more-or-less straightforward jazz trio setting. Perdomo plays the Rhodes on “A Different Side of Reality”, “Looking Through You”, and the aforementioned “Cota Mil”, in no way sacrificing the group’s harmonic intensity or jazz bona fides while pushing forward with a head of steam. Perhaps most impressively, Perdomo trades phrases with himself between acoustic piano and Rhodes on “Brand New Grays”, with the trio playing like a quartet and building to a great climax.
Controlling Ear Unit (“Looking Through You” starts at about 1:30):
Luis Perdomo’s Twenty-Two is a great example of where the jazz piano trio is in 2015. Perdomo, Mimi Jones, and Rudy Royston form an excellent trio with strong individual playing adding up to even more than the sum of their parts, whether in the more subdued mode with Perdomo on acoustic piano or in their harder-hitting mode with Perdomo on the Rhodes. Check out the EPK for Twenty-Two and some more audio from the Controlling Ear Unit (including an excellent version of “Looking Through You” with Perdomo on acoustic piano) below.
Luis Perdomo and the Controlling Ear Unit have some upcoming live shows in the New York City area:
July 24 – Jazz Gallery
August 6 – St. Peter’s Church “Jazz on the Plaza” series