Frank Perri is a keyboardist and arranger with a range of live performance, recording and arranging credits which reads like a who’s who of ‘been there and done it!’ If we mention that Frank has arranged for and led the Duke Ellington Orchestra, has guest conducted the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, is musical director of ‘Break The Floor Productions’, one of the world’s preeminent dance entertainment companies, AND has appeared in the US TV show “Pan Am” on ABC Television, you can see we’re not exaggerating. Oh yes we forgot to mention; Frank is an amazing keyboard player!
As a performer and an arranger/orchestrator, Frank has worked with Bette Midler, VH1, the Grammy Awards, Whoopi Goldberg, Montel Williams, Giorgio Armani, Howard Stern, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Adam Pascal, the International Dance Music Awards, the United Nations, the March of Dimes, the MARS corporation, and Kim Sozzi. He was also the featured Keyboardist for the New York Islanders Hockey Team for the 1999-2000 season and was hit with three hockey pucks during that period.
As a music director he has led shows and bands at Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theater, Nassau Coliseum, Hammerstein Ballroom, the Gibson Amphitheater, the Jackie Gleason theater and Irving Plaza and was interviewed in the February 2008 issue of the American Federation of Musician’s magazine, “International Musician” regarding his work as a music director and arranger.
Frank’s father still asks, “When is he giving up this music garbage and getting a real job?!”
What a fickle woman the muse is. She never comes when asked, she shows up when we’re never ready, deserts us at the drop of a hat. Paul Simon famously wrote about this very problem in his song, “Cecilia”, complaining about the muse deserting him at every turn, and complaining in the form of what? What else, other than the form of a catchy and inspired song. Cecilia, for those who still haven’t figured it out after all these years, is the patron saint of musicians.
We are all required at some point in our lives to call upon her. Some occupations more than others, which is why a muse is more commonly associated with the arts, music and writing rather than say, accounting. But even an accountant at some point may need to reach for inspiration. But what are we to do when we call and she very commonly doesn’t answer? Sometimes we need to look beyond ourselves to find her hiding where we never expected it and sometimes right in front of our very eyes.
I stumbled onto this very fact by accident, and embarrassingly many years into my career. I was music directing a show that featured a tap dancer. At some point the tap dancer had to refine and change some of his choreography so the music was put on hold for a bit while he worked out some new steps. As this wouldn’t take a long time, the band was confined to the bandstand because as some have learned the hard way, you don’t let musicians go on break if they don’t need to. Some never come back and some come back but need help standing! Anyway, I digress, but there we all were sitting quietly listening to the silence being punctured by the sharp sound of taps hitting a stage in various combinations, in that machine gun manner that makes you sometimes wonder how a human can move their feet so fast.
I glanced over to my left to see the bass player furiously writing in his music book in an almost inspired manner. He kept writing, tapping his chest, counting, erasing and then writing again. I leaned over to him and asked what he was up to. He leaned back and said, “This guy is showing me rhythms I never even thought of. I’ve been in such a rut with my playing that as soon as I get home tonight I’m taking these rhythms he’s tapping and I’m going to find a way to translate them to my slapping and popping!”
“Interesting”, I thought to myself but as the band sat there in silence longer and longer I started to think about this very situation. Have I ever looked to anything else for inspiration? Have I done this and not realized? At that point I made a decision to start looking outside myself for inspiration and instead found a world much richer than I had previously experienced.
I started small, taking solos and repertoire from other instruments and rewriting them for the piano, my primary instrument. Right away this provided me with challenges I have never experienced as a pianist. Every instrument has its cache of trademark and cliché riffs. They’re cliché because we all play them and we all play them because the notes of those specific riffs tend to lay under our fingers for our specific instrument.