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Getting to know Luis Perdomo

I took in another “Meet the Artist” session on Monday afternoon. This time was Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo. Perdomo and his band were fresh off a European tour and were looking forward to playing in Burlington again.

Perdomo had visited Burlington on vacation with a friend quite some time ago and had enjoyed the area. For a musician who had grown up in Venezuela, just getting to experience another area must have been very new and interesting.

He talked about his childhood and how his life as a musician took off. He had his first gig at the age of 12. He listened to any music he could get his hands on. His piano teacher would lend him several LP’s (remember, those big black CD things that played on record players? You do remember record players, right?) every week. One of the first was a Cecil Taylor record. He would blare it from his house while his friends were listening to more popular Venezuelan music. Taylor’s music was the catalyst for his interest in becoming at Jazz musician. At the age of 13, he decided that he wanted to be a professional musician.

While studying back in Venezuela, his teacher stressed the importance of studying classical music in addition to Jazz and other popular musical genres. He would study Bach and Beethoven in addition to Cecil Taylor and other prominent Jazz pianists.

After finishing high school, he applied to three colleges and got into one for Biology but decided not to attend. Instead, he tried to get local gigs playing music. Finally he got a gig playing in the most popular Jazz club in Caracas. The band played Jazz from 9pm to 3:30am. The next youngest musician in the band was 38 years old. Perdomo held the gig for four years.

In May of 1989, he made a trip to New York City with some friends, having wanted to see the place where all of the music he was listening too came from. During the trip, he spent all of his money on CD’s and Yankee’s tickets.

He just happened to be in New York when the Manhattan School of Music was holding auditions for the following year and decided to take an audition on a whim. He played a Jazz standard and did some sight reading (reading unprepared music) and that was it. After returning home, he was informed that he had been accepted and offered a sizable scholarship to attend the prestigious school.

While at school, he began to have a greater understanding for the music he had been playing for years. He played in a band with the notable vibraphone player Steffon Harris. Harris got him a lot of his first gigs in New York. Through him, Perdomo met Claudio Acuna and Jason Lindner. When Lindner couldn’t make a gig, Perdomo subbed for him. Soon he was playing with the great Jazz bassist John Pattitucci.

He soon received a call from Ravi Coltrane, son of the great John Coltrane. He played with Ravi for a period of time and soon began playing with alto sax player Miguel Zenon. Though he had his reservations about playing with the Puertro Rican musician, thinking that “he must not play ‘real Jazz,'” he was quite impressed.

Sadly, I was not able to attend the concert on Monday evening but I certainly plan to check out Perdomo’s music. I can tell just from hearing him talk about his experiences and decisions throughout his career that he certainly has something to say musically.

Looking forward to catching some music around town this afternoon, despite the inclement weather. And of course, Will Bernard and his band (Stanton Moore and Robert Walters among them) will be at Nectar’s tonight for a show that is not to be missed.

Meet the Artist with Luis Perdomo | Flynn Space 6.8.09

Meet the Artist with Luis Perdomo | Flynn Space 6.8.09

Burlington Discover Jazz Festival ’09

Here’s what’s on my menu so far:

Thur. 6.4.09
Left Ear Trio @ Ri Ra Pub

Fri. 6.5.09
Esperanza Spalding & Anat Cohen @ Flynn

Sat. 6.6.09
Revision @ Red Square
David “Fuze” Fiuczynski & Michetti @ Nectar’s

Sun. 6.7.09
Michael Louis Smith Coalition @ Half Lounge

Mon. 6.8.09
General musical wandering…

Tues. 6.9.09
CVU Jazz @ City Hall Stage (Church St.)
James Harvey & Garuda @ City Hall Stage (Church St.)
Will Bernard Group (Will Bernard, Tim Luntzel, Stanton Moore, Robert Walter) @ Nectar’s

Wed. 6.10.09
Gordon Stone @ Lawson Lane Stage
Japhy Ryder @ Fountain Stage (Church St.)
Lettuce @ Metronome

Thur. 6.11.09
Lettuce & Porter, Baptiste, Stoltz @ Waterfront Funk Tent

Fri. 6.12.09
Rubblebucket Orchestra @ Fountain Stage for Block Party
Branford Marsalis @ Flynn
Marco Benevento Trio @ Metronome

Sat. 6.13.09
Rubblebucket Orchestra @ Nectar’s

Sun. 6.14.09
General musical wandering…

I plan to catch all sorts of other things around town as I hear about them/hear them. I’ll take pictures and maybe some audio as well and I’ll do my best to post throughout the week.

Burlington Discover Jazz Festival
Picture 1

Keller Williams lays down the loops at Higher Ground

Last night, multi-instrumentalist/looper extraordinaire, Keller Williams performed a solo (if you can really call it solo) show at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT. I picked up my ticket earlier this week, worried that it would be close to selling out. I was surprised to find that ticket sales were going much slower than anticipated. That certainly didn’t stop Williams from putting on a show to remember. For $23, I enjoyed a 3+ hour concert that actually started on time!

I got there at 7:40pm because I like to be in the front row whenever possible. If the only cost difference between being front row and being towards the back is time and patience, I’m certainly willing to pay. I was second in line to get in. I brought my Canon SLR camera to capture a bit of the evening.

Though I was told when I purchased my ticket that the only photography restriction for the evening was the typical “no flash” rule, I was informed at the door that no SLR photography was being allowed. Blast! I must say that I was kinda ticked at this. I had specifically checked what the rules for the show would be and then was told otherwise at the door. I ended up having to pay $1.50 to “check my camera bag” at the coat check. Not cool. I will be checking the rules again for the Lotus show this Friday and I plan to get the name of the person answering the phone because I don’t want to have the same situation over again.

The whole situation quickly dissipated as Keller stepped on stage. The stage setup was phenomenal. This being part of Keller’s “Guitar Shop Tour,” the stage was setup to look like an actual guitar shop. Peg board panels were setup along the back of the stage with lots of guitars and other fretted instruments hanging off of them. The typical “Ask Before Touching” signs were posted along the walls. Elixir guitar and bass strings hung from a wall along with several LP’s behind a makeshift sales counter. The counter had been setup with a cash register and all sorts of effects pedals on the left side of the stage.

At one point during the second set, Williams grabbed a guitar off the wall, set it down on the counter and began playing slide guitar. The sight was hilariously wonderful.

Keller Williams has a certain relaxed quirkiness that works very well on stage. He dances around barefoot, moving from one instrument to the next as he lays down seamless loops. The typical formula (which is not to say that his music is at all predictably formulaic) for one of his songs begins with him laying down some rhythm guitar on one of his many acoustics. Next he may lay down some vocal percussion and/or walk over to the mounted Hohner bass and put down a line. From here on out, it could go anywhere. With approximately 21 stringed instruments and many more other instruments at his disposal, he was like a painter with various shades of every color to choose from.

The highlights of the evening for me included the use of a Korg Kaossilator, use of an african djembe (during the the encore- “Celebrate”) and the performance of an original song about free speech entitled “Rush Limbaugh.”

With two sets of talented musical performance, exploration and experimentation, Keller Williams certainly did not disappoint. If you have the opportunity to see him play on this tour, definitely get out to the show.

kwsetlistposter   kwcounterdisplay

 

kwguitarwall

Happy New Year!

I spent New Years Eve with my wonderful girlfriend enjoying First Night in Burlington, VT. There were all sorts of things to see and do. It was quite chilly (in the single digits!) but we persevered and enjoyed the day.

We caught the Vermont Youth Orchestra at the Flynn Theater for their yearly First Night concert. They performed slightly more popular music than the typical orchestral repertoire (though this all depends on how familiar you are with such things) as well as some newer works. Works included the theme from the Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the theme from the widely popular video game “The Legend of Zelda.” Violinist Duncan Yandell was a featured soloist in a medley of Cape Breton fiddle tunes with the orchestra that certainly brought down the house.

We wandered around Church St., enjoying the day and looking through the many shops. We met up with my friend Erik for a much needed lunch at Bruegar’s Bagels. Nothing like a couple of bagels to fill you up for the rest of the afternoon!

We took in a quick concert with the Gordon Stone Band at the First Congregational Church. They did not disappoint. If you’re familiar with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, they would be the closest thing I can think of to Gordon Stone and his trio. The musicianship was at it’s peak for this show. I’ll certainly look forward to seeing them again sometime soon.

Afterwards, we wandered a bit more and went to check out the exhibit at the Burlington Firehouse Gallery for the Arts. I love checking out art at this gallery anytime I’m in town. The featured exhibit was quite unique this time. It featured a large group of statues made out of hollowed out logs with faces of clay and wood on top. Viewers were supplied with pieces of wood to tap the statues and hear the different qualities of sound from each part. I thought it was a great way to engage the viewer in the art.

We finished off the evening downtown with some fireworks on the brisk top floor of the Church St. parking garage. We stayed warm in the car but, of course, I hopped out for a few photos.

facecarving

childplayingstatue

gordonstone

Thinking back on 2008…

2008 was a heck of a year. You know the saying, “Good times, bad times.” But I think that there are amazing things that 2008 brought us that will better arm us for the future. Change, hope, it’s gonna be the story of 2009.

I’m certainly looking forward to another year. I was starting to feel, as we often do around this season, that we need to cleanse ourselves and start anew. Well, 2009 is here and we’ve got our chance.

It’s a great point in time to make changes, goals and resolutions. I’ve already started working on my list…

Zappa Plays Zappa | 8.2.08 Higher Ground – South Burlington, VT :: Show Review

Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT was the place to be tonight. If you were there, and closed your eyes, it would have been easy to forget which generation of Zappa you were listening to. Dweezil and the gang put on one heck of a show.

The band took the stage at 9:01, causing a roaring crowd to come alive. The band took off with “Treacherous Cretins.” Song after song they kept pulling out tunes and executing the flawlessly. One of the best parts was the obvious fact that everyone on stage was having the time of their life. I think it’s safe to say that the audience was feeling the same way.

Setlist:

Treacherous Cretins
City of Tiny Lights
Sharleena
Cheepnis
Yellow Snow
St. Alfonzo
Father O’Blivion
Uncle Remus
Pygmy (Q-version)
Peaches
Lucille
Joe’s Garage
Wet-T Shit
Outside Now
Cut The Grass
Flakes
Broken Hearts
Bamboozled
King Kong

ENCORE:
Slime
Willie The Pimp

Musicians:
Dweezil Zappa – Guitar
Aaron Arntz – Keyboards & Trumpet
Scheila Gonzalez – Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards & Vocals
Pete Griffin – Bass
Billy Hulting – Marimba, Mallets & Percussion
Jamkie Kime – Guitar
Joe Travers – Drums & Vocals
Ray White – Guitar & Vocals

I was front row and the sound was great tonight. Dweezil’s amps were blasting away with some serious intensity but I still felt a solid balance among the rest of the band. I was quite impressed with percussionist Bill Hulting’s array of instruments and ability to play them all so smoothly. His station included an 8 ft. rack of auxiliary percussion and gongs, a set of congas, a MalletKAT and a vibraphone. Bill also had several other pieces of percussion off to the side. Scheila Gonzalez’ sax and keyboard playing was also quite impressive. The highlight was when she began playing her tenor and alto saxes simultaneously during her solo spot – definitely a crowd pleaser! Guitarist/Vocalist Ray White was something else! Having been a member of Frank Zappa’s ensemble 1976, Ray was an obvious addition to the group. His vocals couldn’t have fit the part better! His stage presence was always quite energetic, whether he was clapping, dancing or belting out vocals.

The show lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes including the two song encore. At $32 a ticket, I was more than satisfied. I need to go out and get the Zappa Plays Zappa DVD now (and maybe some more original Zappa albums!). Hope to have these guys back in Vermont in the near future.

The Skinny Pancake: Veggie Monster

You may have seen their cart on the lower blocks of Church St. before. Maybe you’ve noticed that a local musician is scheduled to play at their restaurant down near the Burlington Waterfront. But if you haven’t walked through those doors and ordered yourself a skinny pancake, you just haven’t lived.

The Skinny Pancake makes crepes of all different varieties. They can make great meals, snacks and even decadent desserts. During the Discover Jazz Festival, Alice and my mom and I decided to partake in the fine foods of the Skinny Pancake. On this jazzy evening I decided to try out the “Veggie Monster.” The funny thing about the crepes served at the Skinny Pancake is that they all look the same on the plate. As I looked at the other meals at my table, I wondered how the waitress was even able to tell them apart.

But sure enough, as I cut into my crepe, I realized that I’d gotten the right one. The “Veggie Monster” contained spinach, roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, and cheddar cheese. At first bite, it reminded me of a tasty omelet. As I continued to enjoy my dinner, I realized it was packed with even more flavor than an omelet. This was something quite unique.

In addition to the unique and tasty food, there is often live music at the Skinny Pancake. Live music dates/times are posted on their calendar.

I conclude that the Skinny Pancake is yet another one of Burlington’s unique food spots, up there with American Flatbread (see blog post) and the Red Onion. This isn’t the kind of food you can find just anywhere.

Vermont Public Radio Evening Jazz with George Thomas

I used to listen to the radio a lot when I was younger. I enjoyed a decent majority of the music I heard on the few stations that I tuned into. As time progressed, I lost interest in traditional radio and turned to online streaming radio stations and my personal CD collection.

In recent years I’ve gotten back to listening to the radio. I regularly tune in for the VPR Jazz show with George Thomas on week nights. The show is live from 8-10pm Mon-Thur. and 9-midnight on Fridays. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy some great music in the evening. I’m a big Jazz fan but I constantly find myself hearing recordings for the first time as their “spun” (I guess they’re not exactly spun in the traditional sense, but you get my meaning) by George. Every night is essentially a continuation of my Jazz education. George provides a great balance of traditional, classic and contemporary jazz on the show. There must be a heck of a collection of recordings at the VPR studio because I’ve only heard the same recording played twice maybe a handful of times over the past several years. George’s knowledge of Jazz history is quite impressive as well. I’m constantly picking up new facts about musicians on specific recordings and the connections they share with other musicians.

Without fail, George always posts the playlist for the evening on the VPR Jazz website. This is definitely convenient if you heard something you really dug but didn’t get to write down the artists name in time while it was playing.

Tune in sometime and enjoy!

(Live Stream)