Interpretations of intentalways confoundingbecome both particularly difficult and intriguing with works of artistic expression as simultaneously precise, pleasurable, and subtly constructed as ...Till Then. Intense musical innovations often stem from the simplest, most confined of experiments, rather than an intellectually driven perspective. The kind of artistic directedness found on ...Till Then often creates a finished product either too forced to be aesthetically satisfying or too aesthetically driven to be convincing. Avoiding both these pitfalls, Danilo Perez has shaped a work of rare tonal consistency that quite astutely maintains a focused intellectual agenda while providing a moving, seamlessly natural experience.
In may ways, Perez's current release is the fulfillment of the experiment begun with the earlier Panamonk, which unabashedly combined Monk's rhythmic and compositional legacy with so-called Latin jazz. By expanding on his previous work, Perez has debunked many preconceptions regarding Latin jazz's possibilities. In fact, Perez's experiment has been so successful as to virtually erase the lines of division previously relegating Latin music to a separate, second class citizen of jazz.
The artist's innovations indicate that jazz and Latin jazz should be seen as one continuum. After all, Spanish, African, Caribbean, and other Latin inflections have existed within the jazz idiom from its earliest origins, and have year after year been tremendously influential on its further development. With pieces such as the steel pan-colored "Gracias a la Vida," the sumptuous ballad "Vera Cruz," and his own "Improvisations in Red," Perez states quite clearly that though Latin elements can be isolated and expanded, they can also be completely integrated into the jazz sphere. Or perhaps the other way around. Jazz elements can be completely integrated into Latin structures.
Such a musical statement would be significant enough, but in many ways this is only the formal background upon which Perez founds this album. If the formal concept indeed relies on synthesis and integration of stylistic elements, then the album as a whole represents a call for integration of a higher order, namely an integration of peoples, governments, and philosophic stances.
How else to explain the all-too timely inclusion of Joni Mitchell's classic protest song, "Fiddle and the Drum," the lyric of which quite dramatically raises concerns about America's international actions and responsibility? Further, the overall sedate, more refined, and lamenting feel of the album suggests contemplation and introspection instead of the more energetic and vibrant material displayed on some of Perez's previous material. This is not, however, the personal lament of an inward turning individual, but the iron-shod lament of emotional, political, and philosophic engagement.
In the end, under the influence of Perez's arrangements and instrumental skill, musicians John Pattituci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Ben Street (bass), Adam Cruz (drums), Donny McCaslin (soprano saxophone) and Liz Wright (vocals) all contribute excellent performances to the balanced and unusually concise nature of the album. The result is an intriguing, powerfully evocative outing which raises pertinent questions regarding cultural hegemony, isolationism, and the potential of music, in this case quite literally at times, to not only vocalize these concerns, but transcend them.
Personnel: Danilo Perez: Piano
John Patitucci: Bass
Brian Slade: Drums
Ben Street: Bass
Adam Cruz: Drums, steel pan, percussion
Lizz Wright: Vocals
Donny McCaslin: Soprano Saxophone