Bill Perkins was essentially a West Coast jazz musician, but in his varied career worked with music legends like Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Art Pepper, Duke Ellington's band, and with Victor Feldman played on some of Steely Dan's legendary albums. A large part of his career was spent, playing with Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Band for nearly twenty five years.
Bill Perkins is one of the outstanding members of the legion of technically gifted and musically inspired tenor players who emerged at the beginning of the fifties. He was a hit with Kenton, and it is perhaps no coincidence that all of Kenton's recordings that feature Perkins are good ones and they remain as fresh today as when they were recorded. Similarly his work on some of Woody Herman's recordings from that time have achieved classic status, where his soloing is a showcase of delicacy and form.
Perkins recorded little under his own name, with notable exceptions as in “On StageThe Bill Perkins Octet” (Vogue) which has him leading Bud Shank, Jack Nimitz, Carl Fontana, Stu Williamson, Russ Freeman, Red Mitchell and Mel Lewis, and “Journey To The East,” recorded 28 years later in 1984 (Contemporary) where the Lester Young influence, which has always affected his playing so strongly, is diverted by a palpable injection of Sonny Rollins. His Perk Plays Prez, from '95, where he covers the music of Lester Young is a standout.He did release several discs recorded in a live setting.