In The Beginning (1962 – 1970)
José Luis Pérez was born on October 13, 1952 in Montevideo, Uruguay, South America. When he was 9 years old he started taking drum lessons with Sergio Ohannian. He quickly mastered all the rudiments of cumbia, rumba and Brazilian samba. When he still was a kid, he started playing with his master’s orchestra, The “Jazz Clave Azul”. This orchestra was known because of the great enthusiasm they put into their music, playing in clubs like “Palacio Sudamérica” and “Quinta de Casa de Galicia” among others. But Pérez wouldn’t escape to the magic of the 60’s. He found himself attracted by the music of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the English Rhythm and Blues. Then psychedelia arrived with artists like Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and so Pérez formed various rock bands that tried to cover those artists’ new sounds. But at the same time he got really interested in the music of local musician Eduardo Mateo, who had established the basis of a brand new popular Uruguayan music with his band “El Kinto”. Pérez was in a permanent quest for broadening his horizons in the music realm.
The New Masters (1971 – 1972)
And that search lead him to Jazz. He studied with Julio Guglielmi and Aldo Caviglia but, thanks to his great skills, in a short time his music professors had nothing else to teach him. He was a very energetic young man. Locked in his house at Famaillá Street near downtown Montevideo, he devoured John Coltrane’s discs and nearly every disc in which a great jazz drummer would play. He spent 10 hours a day practicing and studying drums from the very difficult (but essential) books dedicated to the topic. So by studying hard and helped by his innate talent, he finally managed to dominate the techniques of the most amazing jazz drummers like Max Roach, Joe Morello and Elvin Jones, his new masters. His creative mind, his feeling and his power where now sustained by a superb technique. And we are only in 1972!
The Take-Off (1972 – 1974)
Thanks to a review written by music critic Arnaldo Salustio of a show by the band Vida in mid 1972, José Luis Pérez was removed from anonymity. Aldo Caviglia travels to Spain and leaves his students to the care of Pérez. With only 20 years old, Pérez becomes the music teacher of dozens of young aspiring drummers. One of the main characters of the Uruguayan rock movement in the early 70’s, producer Alfonso López Dominguez (manager of Totem and Psiglo) proposes Pérez to do solo performances in the most popular dancing halls of the period. At the same time, he finds time to perform in plays sharing the stage with other well known musicians as Jaime Roos and Walter Venencio. In the beginning of 1974, Luis Cesio leaves Psiglo and forms the band Ceibo. He couldn’t have found anyone better than Pérez to join his band and play the rhythms of his new musical direction which consisted in a fusion of rock and Latin-American rhythms. Pérez also played with a free-jazz band called Expression Jazz Quartet featuring Alberto “Pocho” Macadar on bass guitar and Raúl Lema and Nelson “Pito” Varela on saxophones. This was one of the richest free-jazz experiences in our country and it was admired not only by jazz fans but by rock fans as well.
Argentina y Brasil (1975 1978)
In 1975 he travels to Argentina and joins progressive rock superstars Arco Iris. In one of his visits to Montevideo he performs with Karma (Pérez, Pippo Spera, Eduardo Márquez del Signore y Pato Rovés) who later go on tour to Brasil (where they get to meet and record with Milton Nascimento).
With Arco Iris he records the LP Los Elementales, which is considered as one of the best three releases of 1978 (the other two being “Películas by Charly García with La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros, and Los Delirios del Mariscal by Crucis). He becomes the victim of a police raid. He escapes, but he does not find much improvement in Uruguay. The dictatorship created its own evils, and there are no students, no jazz, no rock. In this bleak atmosphere, he founds Siddharta, a band that breaths a new life, a new found freedom, the freedom of jazz-rock. In spite of it, these were some of the lowest moments, of "rice with bread and water". Perez does not succumb to these obstacles. He takes intensive English courses to embark in 'the great voyage".
The Great Journey (1980 1986)
Pérez arrives to New York in 1980 and he performs with “Tito Puente Big Salsa Band”, “Larry Mc Rae”, “Malo” (Band of Jorge Santana, Carlos Santana’s brother), “Angel Canales Salsa Band”, “Saffo” and “Monty Waters”. He makes contact with Uruguayan saxophone virtuoso Héctor “Finito” Bingert who at that time was living in Sweden. In Sweden, Bingert and Pérez form Latin Lover, a band that spares music, candombe and latin love all over Scandinavia and Europe between 1982 and 1986. They toured extensively, performed at the most important Jazz Festivals in Europe and released two LP.
Back to Uruguay (1987 1991)
In 1987, he returns to Uruguay and joined by Gustavo “Mamut” Muñoz, Gonzalo Gravina, Leonardo “Bolsa” Amuedo and Guillermo Pelossi, records and releases “El 13: la fuerza del destino”, an awesome fusion disc. In the summer of 1991, with the support of the Swedish Ministry of Culture, Latin Lover toured Brazil and Uruguay. This time, the band’s sound is strengthened by Mats Öberg, a superb blind keyboard player that played with Frank Zappa.
Back To The States (1991 1996)
In March, 1991 José Luis Pérez emigrates to Los Angeles. In this period he has a broad and intense activity playing with musicians of international remark. Some of these musicians were:
►Dr. Yusef Lateef (saxophonist and composer, former member of Dizzy Gillespie's and John Coltrane’s band).
►Charles Moore (trumpet player and doctor in ethnomusicology) and Fowler Brothers (former members of Frank Zappa’s band).
►Jon Anderson (singer of progressive rock band YES).
►Tommy Eyre (keyboard player that has worked with B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Ian Gillan, John Mayall, Gerry Rafferty. He was also the arranger of the version of “With a little help of my friends” that gave Joe Cocker worldwide recognition after his performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969).
►Scarlet Rivera (violinist, most famous for his performance on Bob Dylan´s Hurricane).
►Adam Rudolph (composer and percussionist).
Also in Los Angeles, Pérez joined forces with Uruguayan greats Freddy Ramos and Eduardo Márquez del Signore to form Ritual, an unarguably testimony of the potential of uruguayan music when intertwined with a myriad of diversities. Ritual’s first record “Presencia” was recorded and relased in USA in 1994 and nowadays is still going all over the globe, surprising and shocking listeners of the most diverse cultures. Also in Los Angeles, the duo Pérez-Ramos creates Flip Flop, a record that was cataloged as one of the best of 1995 by Modern Drummer magazine and Jazzis magazine.
Back Home (1997 )
In July 1997, he performs with Ritual and Tommy Eyre an historical concert at Teatro Solís in Montevideo. He also joins Banda Oriental (jazz group of Elbio Rodríguez Barilari), as well as recording with composer and bandoneon player Luis Di Matteo and singer/songwriter Jesús Figueroa. Writes and performs the music for the video clip “Infundia” that represented our country in cinema festivals in San Pablo and Buenos Aires. Also writes the book “Desenvolviendo Candombe Total”, which contains traditional candombe rhythms applied to the drum set. In 1999 he finishes producing the 65 minutes instructional video “Candombe Total” which contains candombe drum lessons as well as promotional videos “October 13th” “The eternal traveler” and “Infundia”, a part of Ritual’s show at Teatro Solis, a bunch of drum solos and a biography of Pérez in the words of music critics Atilio “Macunaíma” Duncan, José María Barrios and Fernando Peláez. This video is already available in Uruguay and its international edition is imminent. As always, Jose Luis Pérez is still dictating cathedra.