Music : Current choice

Pan Africa

Ten years ago, pianist-composer Danilo Perez released an album entitled PanaMonk. Its title perfectly conveyed what Perez has been trying to achieve since releasing his debut album in 1993. Taking the Afro-Cuban rhythmic elements he derived from his youth in Panama and combining them with the harmonic complexities of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, Perez has created a fresh perspective on the bop tradition.

Danilo Perez Trio: St. Mary’s fiesta Jazz Festival
8:30pm Fri, Apr 28
Pecan Grove
11am Sat, Apr 29
University Center, Conference Room A
(Free admission)

Another pretty fair pianist, Herbie Hancock, has lauded Perez as an “amazing musician,” adding, “He’s not afraid of anything.” Certainly, Perez isn’t afraid to tackle any piece of music that attracts his interest, regardless of whether or not it’s perceived as part of the jazz canon. On his 2003 album, ...Till Then, he recast Stevie Wonder’s ballad “Overjoyed” as an upbeat Latin-jazz number. More recently, he’s transformed a section of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde into torch-song material.

Perez began playing the piano at age 3 under the tutelage of his Panamanian bandleader father. He moved to the United States to attend college in Pennsylvania, and quickly impressed heavyweight jazz players with his impeccable technique and rhythmic originality. He was the youngest member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra and the first Latino member of Wynton Marsalis’s band. These days, he divides his time between his own trio and his role as a supporting player in Wayne Shorter’s superlative quartet. You sense that for Perez, it doesn’t matter whether he’s playing the role of bandleader or sideman, as long as he’s deriving inspiration from the experience.

- Gilbert Garcia

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