Native Soul

Who: Danilo Perez Trio
Where: Ronnie Scott’s, London
When: 17th May 2011

I first discovered Danilo Perez at the beginning of his recording career and I’ve followed his journey ever since. He strikes me as a unique pianist. He combines a Western style and the flavours of his native Panama effortlessly. The themes of his albums often reflect this. One of my favourites is “PanaMonk” where the exuberance of Central America and the genius of Thelonious Monk meet.

His recording career hit a little bit of a low a few years ago when the majors were cutting their jazz rosters thoughtlessly. I jumped behind Perez’s ArtistShare projects as he concentrated on his live work until a new label appeared on the horizon. I was able to catch up with him at Madison Square Park in NYC where his ongoing trio also featuring Ben Street (bass) and Adam Cruz (drums), were playing a show. His music at that point was great but sober, sombre and serious.

Since then as evidenced at Ronnie Scott’s, Perez as allowed a broad humour to creep into performance. At one point Perez became a second drummer on Cruz’s kit. At another, Danilo led the percussion on a partially full plastic water bottle. He was MC for some audience singing and light heartedly led some hand-clapping but most of all he was an amazing and accomplished pianist.

It was the piano playing that stopped any of this becoming self-indulgent. Perez on his classic “Native Soul” from his “Till Then….” album showed just what a great composer he is with a rich sense of melody but also how outstanding he can be as a jazz improviser who can stretch out that melody without ever allowing the audience to lose sight of it.

Street and Cruz provide tight accompaniment, great solos and are constantly challenged by Perez to work harder, to think creatively and to re-imagine work which many times has been originally recorded with a larger band in mind.

Mr Perez majored on material from his recent “Providencia” album with the title track and Galatic Panama particularly excelling. The still growing and developing piece “Daniela’s Chronicles” was delightful and the evening was closed out with a second set which was heavy on compositions by the aforementioned Mr. Monk and an unnamed Nocturne which was sensitively delivered and beautiful

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