Luis Perdomo and Controlling Ear Unit

(Hot Tone Music)

Musicians usually don’t lay all their cards on the table in one bold sweep. Giving away too much at once can be risky, leaving some listeners to wonder “What can they show me now?” and making it more difficult to sustain interest throughout the set. The strategy, however, pays off marvelously for pianist and composer Luis Perdomo on his self-composed “Love Tone Poem.”

Indeed, the mood-setting opening track on this stimulating collection of 11 originals and one unlikely pop standard (The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love”) serves as the perfect aural appetizer for what’s to come. Venezuelan native Perdomo emphasizes impeccable classical technique during the song’s opening stanzas, as he explores the harmonic subtleties and yearning romanticism of the Chopin-influenced creation. Two minutes into the arrangement, bassist Mimi Jones — who’s also the pianist’s wife — enters, echoing Perdomo’s single-note melodic line with a softly plucked unison. Drummer Rudy Royston, the other member of the Controlling Ear Unit, prompts a dramatic shift in temperament when his cymbals explode with unrelenting fury. Perdomo and Jones match his infusion of instant energy with their own brand of hard-driving muscularity. The performance is packed with unforced drama and arresting, virtuosic flourishes.

“Old City” taps the leader’s memories of the scene in New York City two decades ago, when he relocated from Caracas. Jones sets up the tune with a growly, lower-register bass intro. Royston’s drumming, in attack mode throughout, contrasts with Perdomo’s limber, bop-rooted navigation of the intriguingly attractive melody. On five tracks, the pianist adds a particularly effective element: complementary solo lines crafted with his electric keyboards. In fact, he trades fours with himself on “Brand New Grays,” a tune that begins with an overlapping, round-based vamp that leads to a melody recalling ‘70s-era Ramsey Lewis. All three musicians shine equally brightly, making Twenty-Two an unconventional piano-trio date with flair to spare. —Mark Holston

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