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Danilo Perez Trio at the Regatta, Boston

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Danilo Perez Trio
Regattabar Jazz Club
The Charles Hotel
Boston, Massachusetts

September 13, 2008

Pianist and composer Danilo Perez has been busy. A brief snapshot of his recent schedule includes last year's Panama Suite, a 15-minute, three-movement composition that was followed up by this year's Across the Crystal Sea (Verve, 2008). As a teacher and director, Perez serves as the Ambassador of Goodwill for Unicef, Cultural Ambassador of his native country of Panama, President and Founder of the Panama Jazz Festival, Artistic Advisor of the Mellon Jazz Up Close series at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and faculty member of the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. Through it all, Perez manages to fill the chair as pianist in the Wayne Shorter quartet and still devote time to his own trio.

Given all of his diverse activities, Perez has developed quite a following in Boston, as was especially evident on this Saturday night as the Danilo Perez trio played to a standing-room-only, sold-out Regattabar. The first set began with Perez's attempt to break the audience-performer barrier by encouraging the room to sing. Not only was he able to transform the atmosphere to that of a meditation session, with everyone humming in unison, but the pianist then proceeded to play an introductory improvisatory piece based on the hummed note. Satisfied with the newly established ambience, Perez then called up band mates Ben Street and Adam Cruz.

Highlights from the set included Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," as well as a tribute to Bud Powell with the legendary pianist's own "Bouncin' with Bud," during which Adam Cruz had the audience cheering for his drum solo. At key moments during the solo, Perez interjected chords and rhythms that fueled the intensity and ferocity of Cruz's playing.

Bassist Ben Street had no trouble playing the complex harmonies and rhythms of Perez's Panamanian- influenced arrangements. He was no less effective on standards, especially with a solo on "Alone Together" that was both subtle and complex.

The set ended as it began, with Perez bringing everyone back to the meditative state. He then played another solo improvisation—this time based on the familiar melody "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." While it elicited laughter, the effect proved untimely: the audience simply was not ready to call it quits. By creating their own sound, one moreover that draws from the uniqueness of Central America's rich musical legacy, the Danilo Perez Trio demonstrated once again why they are force to be reckoned with.

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