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Danilo Perez: Central Avenue

Douglas Payne By

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Danilo Perez (b. 1966) is probably one of the most original young mainstream jazz pianists around. As he mixes his dominant Panamanian heritage with strong bebop influences, he has developed into one of the most unique, exciting pianists on the scene. He's gigged with Dizzy, Paquito D'Rivera, Tom Harrell and, most interestingly, young firebrand saxophonist David Sanchez. Plus, he's recorded four superb discs under his own name, including his previous and sensational Panamonk (Impulse), 1996's best jazz moment.

Central Avenue continues Danilo's Perez's intriguing jazz journey. He's sparring with Latin concepts and bebop modes. But he doesn't allow himself to get locked into such extremes as the overwhelming appeal of salsa or the moribund retro-fit of decomposing jazz standards, as so many young lions are want to do. He mixes both equal affection and manages to say something interesting and memorable.

Perez dresses his sound well too in an ideal trio featuring bassist John Patitucci and drummers Jeff Ballard or Jeff "Tain" Watts (percussionists are also added on three tracks). He also alternates exceptionally well-devised originals ("Blues for the Saints," "Impromptu" and "Rhythm in Blue Suite") with originally arranged standards like "Lush Life" and John Coltrane's "Impressions." At times he suggests a humoresque Monk, or a serious George Shearing and his flights into exotica are even reminiscent of Airto ("Panama Blues") and the straight-up Bob James ("Cosa Linda").

But no matter how you get there, Central Avenue is a good place to check out and, again, Danilo Perez concocts one of the year's strongest releases.

Players:Danilo Perez: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Jeff Ballard, Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Ray Spiegel: tabla; Pernell Saturnino: congas, guiro, clave, shekere, okonkula; Miguel Anga Diaz: okonkula, iya, itotele; Aquiles Baez: cuatro; Raul Vital, Luciana Souza: vocals.

Songs:Blues for the Saints; Impromptu (Conversations); Lush Life; Rhythm in Blue Suite (Playground/Sideways/Love in 5); Impressions; Cosa Linda; Panama Blues.

Title: Central Avenue | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Parco Della Musica Records

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