Luis Perdomo: Links

Links is a musical autobiography of sorts for Luis Perdomo. The Venezuelan pianist performs compositions by his classroom teachers from his native Caracas, the Manhattan School of Music and Queens College, as well as songs by his wife, a couple of hard-bop elder statesmen, the other three members of this quartet, and two of his own originals. It’s a nifty theme, meant to pay homage but also trace the development of his style and sensibility. But that aspect and nearly everything else about Links takes a back seat to the extraordinary rapport and creative potency that occurs between Perdomo and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón.

Although Perdomo has appeared on all six studio discs that are under Zenón’s name, Zenón hasn’t joined a formal Perdomo recording since the pianist’s 2005 debut. The pairing is a tonic for both the listener and the alto saxophonist. For years now, Zenón has been exploring the various roots of native Latin musics. Immersed in Perdomo’s more bop-centric but still Latin-inflected métier, he sounds delightfully unburdened and rambunctious, exploiting the mellifluous upper register, rapid modulations and darting rhythms that are advantages of the smaller horn over the tenor.

Meanwhile, Perdomo is seemingly always there to provide expert support via suggestive responses and goading companionship. The pianist is no stranger to challenging tempos or distinctive harmonies, but his signal virtue may be a contagious kineticism; he employs tension-and-release in a manner reminiscent of Bud Powell, but with a helping of his South American heritage that seems irresistible to his cohorts. At age 71, master drummer Jack DeJohnette uncorked a fountain of youth on Perdomo’s Universal Mind last year that was both dazzling and reassuring, and along with drummer Rodney Green and bassist Dwayne Burno (both familiar sidemen with Perdomo), Zenón flourishes like a young gun and sage rolled into one. When it comes to links, or Links, consider Perdomo the key on the chain that unlocks the treasure chest.