Sail­ing along

THE MU­SI­CAL JOUR­NEY OF DANILO PÉREZ

Pasatiempo - - SAILING ALONG - Paul Wei­de­man I The New Mex­i­can

“I’m ex­cited about cross­ing bound­aries,” said jazz pi­anist Danilo Pérez. “Play­ing with the Santa Fe Sym­phony is go­ing to be re­ally ex­cit­ing, es­pe­cially play­ing with my trio” — bassist Ben Street and drum­mer Adam Cruz. “We have a won­der­ful rap­port. And play­ing mu­sic from Across the Crys­tal Sea, which has won­der­ful mem­o­ries of the time I worked with Mr. Oger­man.”

On Sun­day, Feb. 20, at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, Pérez reprises a jazz trio-plus-strings out­ing he recorded on the 2008 disc Across the

Crys­tal Sea. That al­bum fea­tures songs and or­ches­tral ar­range­ments by Claus Oger­man, the Pol­ish com­poser/ar­ranger who has worked with Mel Tormé, Bill Evans, An­to­nio Car­los Jo­bim, and Diana Krall. Join­ing Pérez on the record­ing — be­sides the string play­ers — are bassist Chris­tian McBride and drum­mer Lewis Nash, as well as per­cus­sion­ist Luis Quin­tero and, on two songs, singer Cas­san­dra Wil­son.

Fol­low­ing the af­ter­noon pro­gram, Jazz Meets the Clas­sics, a din­ner party to ben­e­fit the Santa Fe Sym­phony takes place at La Posada de Santa Fe Re­sort & Spa. The Bert Dal­ton Latin Jazz En­sem­ble pro­vides mu­sic; Pérez, the guest of honor, sits this one out. Recipes from him — and from Michel Camilo, Bran­ford Marsalis, and other jazz play­ers — are on the din­ner menu.

Pérez, born in Panama, is a long­time mem­ber of the Wayne Shorter Quar­tet. Over the past two decades, he has also per­formed or recorded with Dizzy Gille­spie, Paquito D’Rivera, Michael Brecker, Char­lie Haden, and Lee Konitz. Among his ac­co­lades is a 2009 Legacy Award from the Smith­so­nian Latino Cen­ter. He co-founded the Panama Jazz Fes­ti­val eight years ago. That event, cur­rently di­rected by his wife, Pa­tri­cia Zarate, has grown from an at­ten­dance of 8,000 in 2003 to 30,000 in 2010.

Pérez serves as the di­rec­tor of the Global Jazz In­sti­tute, a pro­gram of Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic in Bos­ton. “It pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to work with mas­ters like Joe Lo­vano, but also it’s so­cial work through mu­sic and it’s in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary work, so they not only learn mu­sic but art and science,” Pérez said. “I’m pro­vid­ing them with ex­pe­ri­ence in a jam-session set­ting and ex­pe­ri­ences in a re­tire­ment home and at the jail and in poor ar­eas work­ing with un­der­priv­i­leged kids. This is more men­tor­ship than the tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion in the class­room. And it is the con­cept of not just liv­ing in the bub­ble of, ‘Oh, this is my mu­sic,’ but to be out there do­ing things for the com­mu­nity.” Bassists John Pat­i­tucci and Ben Street are artists in res­i­dence for the Global Jazz In­sti­tute. Its fac­ulty in­cludes drum­mer Terri Lyne Car­ring­ton.

Most jazz mu­si­cians work with a tremen­dous va­ri­ety of peo­ple. Asked about his ex­pe­ri­ences play­ing with drum­mers Jack DeJohnette, Roy Haynes, and Car­ring­ton, Pérez was ef­fu­sive. “With Jack, when I did my first record­ing [1992’s Danilo Pérez], I re­mem­ber re­ally not know­ing much what to do ex­cept for the chem­istry I had heard with him and Keith Jar­rett. It was in­tim­i­dat­ing be­cause Jack plays al­most the feel­ing of

be­ing in­side a wash­ing ma­chine and you don’t know where the beat is. It’s sort of cir­cu­lar. It took me a good while to re­ally un­der­stand how to get in and get out of the way.

“With Roy, it was re­ally where I made the con­nec­tion with the Caribbean. He’s from Bar­ba­dos, and I re­ally un­der­stood the swing feel and the straight feel, that you can be in jazz and you can be more triple ori­ented or you can be more like one two, one two, one two three four, one two three four. Roy is the king of those sub­tleties, and that’s why he can play with any­body. He can ac­cess Caribbean roots in his play­ing and then he can ac­cess the march­ing band, more of the North Amer­i­can style. Also, play­ing with him taught me to learn the lyrics of the piece. He’s very much into the lyrics, and he’ll know you don’t know be­cause you’ll have the phrase in the wrong place or some­thing. You have to know how the words de­scribe the melody.

“And Terri is like a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of both of them, ac­tu­ally. It’s been very easy from the first day to play to­gether. She’s just so mu­si­cal, and she has ev­ery­thing from early jazz to funk, and she con­nects into Latin rhythm so eas­ily.”

When he spoke to on Feb. 8, Pérez was about to start a week play­ing with the quar­tet led by the sage sax­o­phon­ist Shorter and in­clud­ing Pat­i­tucci and drum­mer Brian Blade. Pérez called his 10 years with that band “a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, mu­si­cally.” The first time they played to­gether, Shorter made an un­usual re­quest. “He asked me to put ‘ wa­ter’ in the chords to get the sound he was imagining. I’m like, ‘What?’ … Then, af­ter that, I went to the ho­tel and started think­ing about what he re­ally meant. I was watch­ing a soap com­mer­cial, and at one point it kind of made sense, so I took that idea, and I started writ­ing some voic­ings. The next day I played those chords I was work­ing on, and he said, ‘ Yeah, that’s what I’m talk­ing about, but now the wa­ter has to be re­ally clean.’ It was just an in­ter­val, a very small in­ter­val that he could per­ceive what he called mud. And at that mo­ment I said, ‘ Wow, this is go­ing to be a jour­ney. I’m ready for this.’ ”

Shorter was in Florida when in­ter­viewed him in 2002. The first thing he said was that he had just seen a dou­ble rain­bow that “arced high above, then con­tin­ued in a com­plete cir­cle through the ocean and the streets. We saw the whole cir­cle!” The sax­o­phon­ist and com­poser is known for his in­no­va­tive, en­er­getic, non­con­formist mu­si­cal ap­proach and for his affin­ity for science fic­tion. “A lot of the mu­sic that is com­ing [from Shorter] is in­spired def­i­nitely from read­ing sci-fi books and watch­ing movies,” Pérez said. “He has taught us, ‘Play what you think the world should be like. Or write mu­sic in the way if you want the world to be more op­ti­mistic or hopeful or more science fic­tion — just go for it.’ In my case, work­ing with him, I’ve re­ally de­vel­oped my so­cial ac­tivism in a pro­found way.”

Three-man crew: from left, Ben Street, Danilo Pérez, and Adam Cruz

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