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About Gene Perla
Gene Perla was raised in New Jersey where he studied piano and trombone. After attending Berklee School of Music he moved to New York and began his musical career as a jazz bassist. He has performed and/or recorded with Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Elvin Jones, Chuck Mangione, Joni Mitchell, Buddy Rich, Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Stone Alliance, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, and others. In the early 1970's he formed music publishing and record companies, and his group the Stone Alliance" traveled to South America and Europe which gave him experience in management and booking. Other efforts include Broadway sound design and recording studio operations. He is currently playing his basses, producing records, running an Internet design and hosting company, and teaches at Lehigh University and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
About Bill's Waltz, as told by Gene Perla
At some point, an idea presented itself to me: orchestrate Elvin Jones' drums. This was sometime during 1986, when I was living in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey with my wife, Korinna and our two children, Cristina and John. Not one to let grass grow, I called Elvin and put in my request. He agreed. Yahoo!
Having played with Elvin for the first time (on piano) at the old Five Spot on East Eighth Street in New York City circa 1965, it wasn't until 1968 during a live impromptu WGBH-TV Boston performance, filling in for a missing-in-action Jimmy Garrison, that I became fully aware of the complexity of Mr. Jones' drumming. Listening to that old recording, I can hear my electric bass exclaiming bewilderment at where the hell 1" is. When I got the call to join his group in early 1971, I embarked upon a two and a half year adventure that set the stage for the '86 call.
Of course, I had heard many of Coltrane's recordings and even heard the Classic Quartet live (albeit only once), but until I had a chance to lay my hands directly upon Elvin's propulsion, I was in the dark as to what forces existed around my contributions. I've remarked on many occasions that it took me a good six months to come to the point of saying that I could now play with this fellow.
Hi-hat? Forget it. And the drums? Nah. Everything was always swirling and continuously changing, leaving his ride cymbal as the focal point. Those pings" denoted the time, but when they disappeared it forced me to take responsibility to establish where I thought the pulse was. With each passing hit, it slowly evolved. Whatever strength I have comes directly from those days and nights with the world's greatest jazz drummer.
One more prep for the ensuing story was my long association with my best friend percussionist/drummer Don Alias. And we were best friends for over forty years. Alongside Don, I gained the invaluable experience of knowing Latin music. Beating in two when playing 4/4 is a powerful element in controlling the time. There were other experiences with Chick Corea that also helped my understanding of time, but let's move on.
So Elvin agreed! We two entered a New York City recording studio in November 1986 with me on Fender-Rhodes keyboard and Elvin on his traps. I asked to be isolated with gobos and headphones resulting in the fact that my keyboard strokes can't be heard on the drum tracks. During two back-to-back days we recorded ten tunes - nine of mine plus I'm Popeye The Sailor Man." By the time we arrived at a ballad on the first day, Elvin, being a drinker, was really relaxed, if you get my drift. On the following day, when it was over, he said that we should keep going and record more stuff tomorrow." He was really into it. In another one of those grand errors in Perla's judgment, I said, Nah, I've got enough for an album."
Read more about the making of Bill's Waltz here.