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All About Jazz: Danilo Pérez At Montreal

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Thursday July 20, 2017

From All About Jazz

Festival International De Jazz De Montréal 2017: July 3-4 – Danilo Pérez Trio
By: Mark Sullivan

The first of two acts billed as a “Programme double,” the Panamanian pianist/composer Danilo Pérez brought his longtime band mates bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz. The opening tune began with unaccompanied piano setting the tone—a common approach for this trio. The entire band built slowly—muting inside the piano, muted bass, drum kit played with the hands—until a full crescendo. The piano then set up a new ostinato pattern, joined by the band. I didn’t catch the name of the piece, but it had the feel of a suite. “Expeditions” was introduced as a new song. Briefer than the opener, but it too was multi-sectional. “Providencia” got an especially infectious Latin groove going—lots of nodding heads in the audience—and had a big, repeated rhythmic finish.

It being Independence Day in the United States, Pérez gave a little speech about the power of music to build community, a theme which he elaborated on later in the set. He described Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” as an appropriate choice. It gave the rhythm section a chance to shine, with Street’s bass solo accompanied only by Cruz’s drums. After band introductions, they launched into an astonishing son montuno, which the band was demonstrably delighted by: they were clearly enjoying themselves immensely, as was the audience. It included an unaccompanied section with the pianist playing a straight montuno pattern with his left hand while commenting with clusters played by his arms, the back of his hand, etc. At the end the drums and bass traded eights, bebop style. Tremendously exciting.

Pérez announced a Thelonious Monk medley in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday this year. He began with an exploratory solo version of the beautiful ballad “Round Midnight,” then the whole trio launched into “Evidence.” Solo again, the pianist wove several tunes together, notably “Well, You Needn’t” and “In Walked Bud” (Monk’s tribute to the great bebop pianist Bud Powell) before the group joined in for a final Latin groove. An exciting end to a joyous performance.

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