Perez’s vocals are impressive and a departure from the standard vocal conventions that one can hope for. She is interactive with that band. Perez has a solid tone and confident delivery that is recognizable . I enjoy her choice of repertoire and creative way of re-working them. – CAMERON BROWN
On her latest release It's Happenin ', vocalist and fashionista Perez presents a sparkling program of jazz classics, smartly arranged and beautifully played by some of the most happenin' musicians on the jazz scene today...HELEN SUNG
Perez was born in Harlem, New York, at 136th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Her mother was of Cuban Irish decent, a housewife; her Puerto Rican father was a machinist who played congas and guitar in the Navy Big Band. Drawn to music and art from an early age, it was said, that by age four, she would hear a song once and be able to recite the lyrics and melody. Perez attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan at the age of 12 and majored in photography, but later focused her energy on vocals as a form of communication.
At the age of 17, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked within the Art and Design world and began her fascination and long romance with jazz. She worked for Cannon films and was being exposed to the Art Director's taste in music. Lucky for her it was Coltrane and Parker! She began to seek out other jazz artists, and fell in love with the music of Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, the cool of Anita O'Day, Shirley Horn, Chet Baker, and Annie Ross. Then hearing the amazing Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone was the final step in the decision to leave the visual world behind and focus on jazz vocals. Perez then moved to Europe and made a conscious decision to focus on a verbal form of communication. She took classes at various schools and conservatories, but also had many lessons from the jazz artists that stayed at her house like Curtis Clark, Anita Wardell, Jan Ponsford and Randy Greer.
Perez became a regular figure at Amsterdam's famous jazz club Bimhuis. When applying to be a member of the Bimhuis, she was asked, “How long have you been involved in improvised music”? Her response was, "6 months after I was born I was placed into a foster home. I have been improvising since then." Establishing her reputation, she ran a weekly session there for a spell and was lucky to appear at festivals on stages across Europe.
After a ten year stay in Europe, she returned to New York City to record two CDs entitled "Seventh Avenue South" and "Sunday Sketches", both released on Timeless Records, a Dutch label. Each recording has some hip standards as well as original tunes.
“It’s Happenin’”, her third CD recording and 2008 ZOHO label debut, is Perez’ collaboration with several of the top New York-based straightahead jazz musicians, featuring tunes from the Great American Songbook in new arrangements. Following are Perez’s comments on her selections :
Perdido : “Juan Tizol joined Ellington's orchestra in September, 1929 as a valve trombone player, and remained with Ellington for the next 15 years. Ervin Drake and H. J. Lengsfelder wrote the lyrics to "Perdido" in 1944, two years after Ellington first recorded it as an instrumental number. Pioneering jazz trombonist Juan Tizol, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on 20 January 1900. His family background had deep roots in music with forefathers that performed with Puerto Rican danza legend, Juan Morel Campos. The lyrics to this tune are a hoot! Siesta together, a fun tune about a brief romance. Arrangement David Hazeltine.”
Blame it On My Youth : “I heard this as an instrumental at a gig I had at the Café Alto jazz club in Amsterdam,” comments Perez. “I have loved it ever since.
When I found the music and read the lyrics years later, I really felt connected to it. Having a difficult childhood has made me strong and I have developed a strong sense of true values. When I sing this tune I think of a situation that I faced when I first returned to NYC. I have a strong connection to this tune, as I do all the tunes that I record and perform.”
Corcovado: Jobim's musical roots were planted firmly in the works of
Pixinguinha, a legendary Brazilian musician and composer who, in the 1930s, began the development of modern Brazilian music. Jobim was also influenced by the music of French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy and by jazz. Every time I hear Jobims tunes , I envision a first kiss, I envision a sunset on an exotic beach.His compositions always transports me to romantic places. Arrangement Jed Levy.”
Detour Ahead: “I found this tune in an instrumental version on Bill Evans Trio Riverside LP called “Recorded live at the Village Vanguard”, featuring Scott LaFaro on bass, and Paul Motian on drums. I am so glad the song had powerful lyrics as well.”
Farmers Market: “I have been a fan of Annie Ross and King Pleasure since I can remember. “Farmers Market” is so hip; I was drawn to Annie’s lyrics about the hip chick, the drummer and the beans! I have had the pleasure of seeing Annie Ross a multiple of times over this past year in New York, and she remains timeless, hip and flawless.
In The Wee Small Hours: This song was recorded by Frank Sinatra on February 17, 1955, and released in 1955 as the lead track on Sinatra's album Capitol LP “In the Wee Small Hours”. The story about this session is that after Mr Sinatra and his then-wife Eva Gardner called it quits for the last time, he went in and recorded this legendary session. I relate to its timeless message of longing. Arrangement David Hazeltine.”
Milestones: “This is a great composition from the 1950s by Miles Davis. When I heard Giacomo Gates’ lyrics, I knew I had to record this. ‘Time's your treasure spend it wisely, its all up to you,’ … I love these lyrics, great message.
Nature Boy: “Eden Ahbez composed the song "Nature Boy " about friend "Tribesman" Robert Gypsy Boots Bootzin, who was leading a lifestyle which strived to be all natural and Spartan. Nat King Cole recorded this song, and
made this composition famous. While he was on his honeymoon in
Mexico, it made #1 and remained on charts for 8 weeks in 1948! Love is a
wonderful thing... Arrangement David Hazeltine.”
Will You Still Be There (What If I Don’t ): “Fun Lyrics written by Anita Wardell to a hip tune; Herbie Handcock is one of the top jazz artists of our time, it’s an honor to cover one of his tunes.” Perez
Recorded at Systems Two , Brooklyn NY, on September 10, 2007. Mixed and mastered October 24th, 2007, by Mike Marciano. Photos : John Abbott. Package Design: Donna Agajanian. Producer: Perez. Executive producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.