Danilo Perez: . . . Till Then

Danilo Perez
. . . Till Then

“(Then) there is the song which inspires a story that you yourself can tell. This song asks you how you feel.” Joshua Redman was talking about standards in the liner notes for his collection of new standards Timeless Tales (For Changing Times), although he doesn’t refer to the songs as standards because, in his estimation, these songs are more than that. “The song is forever. It is timeless. It is always with you, because (as Hammerstein and Kern so aptly put it) ‘the song is you.'”

Redman found himself in a popular format that included well-worn selections by George & Ira Gershwin/Dubose & Dorothy Heyward (“Summertime”), Irving Berlin (“How Deep Is the Ocean”), and Cole Porter (“Love for Sale”) alongside contemporary tunesmiths Joni Mitchell (“I Had a King”) and Stevie Wonder (“Visions”). If these “timeless tales” are Redman, then he is the scion of pure pop sensibilities.

Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez shares a certain degree of affection for pop music as well. But on his latest release, . . . T ill Then, besides showing his appreciation for the pop songcraft of Wonder (“Overjoyed”) and Mitchell (“Fiddle and the Drum”), Perez claims fealty to the Latin American influence of Ruben Blades (“Paula C”), Chico Buarque (“Trocando em Miudos”), and the Brazilian great Milton Nascimento (“Vera Cruz”). His reinterpretation of Thelonius Monk on his Impulse debut PanaMonk marked him as a premier, highly unconventional jazz performer.

Perez instinctively blends Afro-Cuban, Post-Bop, and Latin elements with a laid-back approach. His light, agile playing commands attention without becoming overly demanding, which is quite a feat for a performer known for his occasionally rigorous forays into multiple time signatures and classical touches as on the Perez original “Improvisation on Red”. Equally important, Perez manages to steer clear of Redman’s tendency to overplay his talent or lay it on so sweetly that it borders on becoming too smooth.

The rhythmic bounce provided by bassists John Patitucci and Ben Street along with drummers Adam Cruz and Redman compatriot Brian Blade only enhances the engaging arrangements Perez has created. It would be difficult to point to one standout, but the closing track “Vera Cruz” dramatically showcases the tightly focused unit, especially the steel pan and percussion work of Cruz as well as the soprano saxophone of Donnie McCaslin.

Perez also shares the spotlight with rising vocalist Lizz Wright (who is credited with the lyrics) on the romantic title track, which deserves recognition as a timeless tune in its own right. Wright’s lush, understated delivery offers enticing hints of future collaborations and new standards set by these two performers. Fans must simply enjoy this set and patiently wait until the next time.