One of the special things about Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival is the educational sessions that fill out the schedule, along with all of the concerts and musical events.
The Festival’s longstanding artist-in-residence is the renowned veteran jazz critic Bob Blumenthal. He usually leads four or five “Meet the Artist” sessions, and the latest one was this evening with Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo in advance of his 8:30pm show.
As a student of jazz piano legend Roland Hanna, the richest and most personal stories Perdomo had to tell centered around their warm – if challenging – relationship. Perdomo summed it up by saying, “he never heard me play my best. He always found out what I couldn’t do, and made me do it.”
In fact that’s how their lessons together began: Hanna told Perdomo to “play something. Pick a ballad, anything you know.” Perdomo chose the standard, I Fall In Love Too Easily. But before Perdomo started to play, Hanna added “now play that like Jelly Roll Morton. In the key of E Major.” Perdomo sat silent, bewildered. Hanna said “You can’t? Then you don’t know it.”
At another lesson, Hanna brought in a Scriabin score (“you know, where the whole page is black”, Perdomo said, laughing). “He made me play it all very slowly, and you know sometimes that’s the hardest of all because you lose all meter, all rhythm, and it seems to last forever.”
Like many relationships the reward was not always immediately apparent. But the most telling detail came in Perdomo’s description of his graduation from Queens College, where he received his Masters. The day of the ceremony, Hanna told him “I know you are graduating but you still need to come to your lessons.” And Hanna continued to give Perdomo lessons for the next year, gratis. “He never charged me, he just wanted me to study what he was teaching me.”
Perdomo’s trio (with bassist Hans Glawischnig and percussionist Eric McPherson) performed tonight at the FlynnSpace.