This review appears in the September 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.
Universal Mind (RKM)
By David R. Adler
On Universal Mind, his fourth outing as a leader, pianist Luis Perdomo embraces a hard-swinging piano trio aesthetic, mixing it up with bassist Drew Gress and Jack DeJohnette. It’s a logical move: his 2006 disc Awareness was also steeped in trio modernism, even avant-gardism (with a double rhythm section on five of the tracks). His 2008 Criss Cross date Pathways, also with trio, combined originals with songbook standards and a Bud Powell classic. This time the opener is Joe Henderson’s “Tetragon,” an angular midtempo blues from 1968, just the thing to break the ice. (It so happens that DeJohnette played on Henderson’s Tetragon album, but not on the title track.)
There’s a polished virtuosity, a smoothness of execution, to be heard on Perdomo’s earlier efforts, particularly his work with bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Eric McPherson. The interplay on Universal Mind is lumpier, more off-centered, thanks largely to the rousing, relentless churn of DeJohnette’s drums. Keith Jarrett’s trio is a reference point, although it has worked for decades; the Universal Mind session, by contrast, was Perdomo and DeJohnette’s first-ever encounter.
The newness has musical benefits, of course. Two improvised piano-drum duets (“Unified Path” I & II) yield strong, semi-abstract results. “Tin Can Alley,” originally a vehicle for DeJohnette’s band Special Edition, harks back to the midtempo strut of “Tetragon” but with a more complex written theme. Perdomo’s originals range from the lyrical, harmonically spare “Langnau” and “Just Before,” to the waltz “Above the Storm,” to the polyrhythmic burners “Gene’s Crown” and “Doppio.” His “Rebellious Contemplation” seems to start in mid-thought with ferocious eight-bar trades, working up to a twisty and unexpected coda.
It takes high skill to spar with DeJohnette and not get overpowered or upstaged. Perdomo thrives under the pressure. Whether or not his relationship with DeJohnette takes further root, he’s advanced his art considerably with this fine release.