b. USA. A gifted pianist and composer, throughout the 90s Perla became an increasing important presence on the contemporary jazz scene. In New York City, from 1987-91 he led Music Without Walls, a band which featured Pheeroan Ak Laff, Marty Ehrlich, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander and John Goldsby. Deeply interested in Indian music, Perla has performed and recorded with several noted Indian musicians, especially tabla player Zakir Hussain, appearing with him on George Brooks’ 1998 release Night Spinner. Subsequently, in San Francisco, Perla often performed with local notable musicians, among them Paul McCandless, violinist Darol Anger and Hussain. He has appeared at numerous festivals, including the Texaco New York Jazz Festival, The Knitting Factory, also in New York, and the Monterey Jazz Festival. He has also appeared internationally, playing as festivals in Finland and the UK. In 1997 he won the Thelonious Monk Institute and BMI Jazz Composers Award for ‘Roman Candles’ that he recorded on Swimming Lessons For The Dead. In 1998 he toured Japan, and his trio was featured on television in Tokyo. Among musicians with whom he has played are Will Kennedy and John McLaughlin, both of whom guest on The Visit, as do McCandless and Anger, Seamus Blake, Craig Handy, Paul Hanson, Steve Smith and Rodney Whitaker.
Perla is a particularly interesting composer, working not only in jazz but also writing for classical orchestral and chamber music groups. He has been accorded awards, fellowships and commissions by many organizations and seats of learning, among them the Chicago Symphony, the American Music Center, the Yale University School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the Oakland Symphony. Late in 1998 his C# Minor Complex was premiered by Music at the Anthology (NYC), of which the executive producer is Philip Glass. He has also scored several independent films, including Emperor Nero!, an opera/musical for which he received a concurrent commission from the Oakland Symphony for a violin concerto, ‘Nero Burns One’. Perla is also active in musical education, leading the Composer in the Schools course in San Francisco in 1999, teaching at the Young Musician’s Program, UC Berkeley, and working with the Oakland Symphony’s educational programmes. His composing and teaching come together on works such as 1997’s ‘Trane Of Thought’, commissioned by the Oakland East Bay Symphony and featuring the Oaktown Jazz Workshop Band. He has also taught music theory and ear training at the Manhattan School of Music’s Pre-College Division.