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Oscar Perez: Prepare A Place For Me

Dan Bilawsky By

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If Oscar Perez hadn't taken to the piano, he might've had a promising career in music journalism. In the concise and profound liner essay for this album, Perez intelligently considers the meaning of music, the struggles and joys connected to the art of creating and performing, and the way an individual's very being seeps into the sounds they make and vice versa. His carefully chosen words say far more than most, but he needn't have penned the essay at all since his music says more than enough about those oft-pondered subjects.

On Prepare A Place For Me—Perez's third album, following the Latin jazz-centric Nuevo Comienzo (Self Produced, 2007) and the loftier Afropean Affair (Chandra Records, 2011)—thoughts run deep and the music acts as a unifying force. Perez and his simpatico trio mates prove to be practiced in the art of self-discovery and interplay, skillfully bringing together pre-composed thoughts and real-time musings to meet and mingle. The leader's fingers artfully flit across the keys, drummer Alvester Garnett's hands deftly move around the kit, bassist Thomson Kneeland proves to be as nimble and skillful as they come, and guest saxophonist Bruce Williams ups the passion factor when he's present. They make for a strong and affecting team throughout.

Seven of the nine tracks on this album are Perez originals, but every single number, including "'Round Midnight" and "The Nearness Of You," speak to his background, influences, and mentors. He takes ownership of those two oft-covered classics while also giving credit where it's due, as he proudly notes how his studies with Danilo Pérez inform the way he approaches Monk and how his take on that Hoagy Carmichael favorite owes a debt to the trio work of pianists Fred Hersch and Hank Jones. Elsewhere, as on the swinging and bluesy "Headin' Over," Perez cites the artistry of Art Blakey and Cedar Walton. He was listening to them quite a bit when he completed the piece, so the spirit of both men lives in the music. Then there's the intoxicating and grooving "Mushroom City," a baiao-based number which takes its name from an improvisational concept connected to Charlie Banacos that Perez learned about via Garry Dial, and the gorgeous and moving "Song For Ofelia," composed long ago, after Perez's grandmother had passed away.

In each and every one of those cases, Perez puts his head and his heart to good use, allowing both to influence the beautiful end result(s). The spirit of togetherness and the art of finesse act as through lines, unifying every piece here, regardless of style, subject, or subtext.

Track Listing: Just Everything; 'Round Midnight; Headin' Over; Snake Charm; Message To Monterey; The Nearness Of You; Prepare A Place For Me; Mushroom City; Song For Ofelia.

Personnel: Oscar Perez: piano; Thomson Kneeland: bass; Alvester Garnett: drums; Bruce Williams: alto saxophone (3, 4, 7-9).

Title: Prepare A Place For Me | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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