It’s hard to miss the drummer Ben Perowsky these days. You can catch him onstage with Steven Bernstein, on the silver screen with Will Ferrell (Perowsky’s music figures in an incredible scene in Talladega Nights), and on records by John Zorn, Trey Anastasio, Kaki King and so many others. But his latest release as a leader, the cookin’ Esopus Opus, should make him more visible than ever.
Backed by the bassist Drew Gress, the accordionist Ted Reichman and the ace clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, Perowsky investigates a joyful and boisterous sound on Opus, and an esthetic that is abstract at times but never elusive. Take “Manic Depression,” for example: the quartet transforms Jimi Hendrix’s immortal rock waltz into a vehicle for tasty accordion work and free jazz clarinet. But it still rocks, you know? It’s still got a killer beat beneath it all. And anything with a killer beat should get through to the huddled masses.
And speaking of killer beats, Perowsky’s got a truck load. Mr. BP is as good as it gets: his playing is always full of new and interesting ideas, but his job comes first. He’s there to propel the band, and to lock things down when the energy gets big. And, like all of the great cats, he’s only there to serve the music. If the music doesn’t NEED it, he’s not going to play it.
A powerful idea, no? Well, the music itself is just as powerful. Check out the grooving “Perolas,” a tune by the late Brazilian mandolinist Jacob do Bandolim. Perowsky really digs into this latin number, pushing Reichman (whoo!) and Gress (check out his solo on this one… just perfect) to brief flights of fancy. Also peep the curious ode to Brooklyn “Red Hook,” and a gorgeous take on The Beatles’ “Flying” (complete with background vocals!).