Panama 500 Review and Jazz Showcase Preview

Aguzate: September 17, 2014

Danilo Pérez is quite simply one of the most inventive jazz pianists of our time.

You’ll note that I didn’t qualify that with the word ‘Latin’. Yes, Pérez was born in Panama and his music has often been imbued with the sound and spirit of his homeland and the Caribbean. He first came to attention of American audiences through his work with Paquito D’Rivera (I have a handful of Paqito CDs from the early 90s when both Danilo and Chicago’s own Fareed Haque were in Paquito’s band), but he has also played with Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette and dozens of other artists from the non-Latin side. He was in a trio led by the great Roy Haynes and is also a long time member of Wayne Shorter’s quartet.

Danilo’s recordings have explored American jazz as deeply as that from the Caribbean, often at the same time, especially on the rather amazing Panamonk. As a conservatory trained pianist in the European tradition and a Panamanian, his take on the music of the idiosyncratic piano great Thelonius Monk was as original as its inspiration.

He’s been coming to Chicago regularly for over 20 years, and though he has made the occasional concert appearance at Symphony Center, his ‘home away from home’ has been the venerable Jazz Showcase. He even recorded 2005’s terrific Live at the Jazz Showcase with his trio there. That makes his return starting Thursday, September 18 an especially anticipated appearance. I last saw him at the Showcase in 2011. I reviewed that performance for Arte y Vida Chicago, and I remember not only the brilliant improvisational interplay of the trio (Pérez, bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz) but also the folkloric sound that two of the evening’s longer pieces evoked. There were also hints of mambo, sketches of samba and deep forays into Monk and Dizzy.

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