Danilo Pérez: Panama 500

Pop Matters: March 28, 2014

Jazz pianist Danilo Pérez works in the rarified air of modern jazz much of the time.

He plays with the Wayne Shorter Quartet, a space of daring and thrilling jazz abstraction. What that music “means”, beyond its own thrilling vocabulary of feeling and musical exploration, is hard to say.

But Pérez also often works on music – also jazz but not just jazz – that comes with a story, the story of Pérez’s home in Panama. And Panama 500 is the remarkable follow-up to 2010’s Providencia, which refracted Panamanian folk music through jazz and classical lenses to create something bracing and new.

Again, Pérez aptly showcases his outstanding trio (with Ben Street on bass and Adam Cruz on drums) on most tracks, supplementing the band with strings, voices, percussion, and particular musical elements from the native Guna culture. The trio from Shorter’s group also plays on four tracks here, moving and responding to each other with characteristic sympathy and musical ease.

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