Posted at 8:17 AM on June 20, 2011
by David Cazares
Filed under: Music
Pianist Danilo Perez and bassist John Patitucci performing with saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
The pianist Danilo Perez once told me that his music is all about opening doors. With true pan-American vision, he wanted to give people a chance to hear another part of Latin America.
For more than two decades, Perez has done that remarkably, fusing rhythms from his native Panama and elsewhere with jazz, creating new and expansive music by breaking artificial boundaries between genres.
He won wide acclaim with PanaMonk, a brilliant 1996 recording of originals and Thelonious Monk tunes that showed how the North American jazz master's percussive compositions presented an ideal canvas for Latin American embellishments. With Motherland in 2000, he delivered an expansive work that explored the African and indigenous elements that have long enriched the music of the Americas.
Since then, Perez has been playing in saxophonist Wayne Shorter's quartet. Perez, who performs Saturday at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival has thrived in the ensemble, which isn't wed to traditional orthodoxy. Joining him will be bassist John Patitucci.
That couldn't be more clear on the pianist's latest release, Providencia on Mack Avenue records. An inventive recording, it explores the future, aiming for the kind of uplifting world Perez would like to leave for his two daughters. With intricate storytelling, the pianist and his 11-member ensemble fuse jazz with classical music, Latin and other beats in a broad and modern space that includes ample improvisation. At times soaring and at others tranquil, the music takes listeners on moving journey.
The pianist's own journey began in Panama, where he began studying music at age 3, when his father, a band leader and singer, gave him a set of bongos. By 5, he was studying European classical piano at the National Conservatory in Panama. His father also taught him to hear the music in the world around him, lessons the pianist recalled in an interview with journalist Maria Hinojosa.
Years later, he came to the United States to study electronics at Indiana University, but after hearing Chick Corea in concert, he switched to piano, studying at Berklee College of Music.
A huge influence was the late great Dizzy Gillespie, who loved Afro-Latin rhythms. The trumpeter included Perez in his United Nations Jazz Orchestra.
Like many Latin American musicians, Perez was attracted to immense musical possibilities of jazz, which he employed in his own global vision.
Not weighed down by the past, he doesn't simply repackage traditional compositions. Instead, he looks for opportunities to change direction and explore new ideas.
The jazz is still there, but it's not always easy to tell what he's doing in his complex fusions. The boundaries are gone.
Sun Yung Shin's first book of poems Skirt Full of Black (Coffee House Press) received the Asian American Literary Award for Poetry in 2008. She is the co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (South End Press) and the author of bilingual Korean/English illustrated book for children Cooper's Lesson (Children's Book Press). Sun Yung has taught writing at the University of Minnesota, the College of St. Catherine, the Loft Literary Center and elsewhere in the community.
Her next book of poems, Rough, and Savage, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in fall 2012.
That Came to be Split into a Plurality
That we each have a number assigned to us
Thanks be to the devil for the idea of sequence
That we each have forgotten our numbers
Thanks be to the gods for a child's memory
That we each have a name, or three, assigned to us
Thanks be to the devil for sound marrying sense
That we each have forgotten the way to our house, apartment, farm
Thanks be to angels for the scent of chrysanthemums
That we each were the consequence of war, poverty, illness, death, despair or hope
Thanks be to each other for what we call society
That we each will be buried with the bodies of our mothers
Thanks be to the stars for the constancy of matter that cannot be destroyed
That we each will be buried with the bodies of our fathers
Thanks be to the metal that will unskin the world
-- "That Came to be Split into a Plurality" in Skirt Full of Black, by Sun Yung Shin (Coffee House Press, 2007). Reprinted with permission from Coffee House Press.
Okay, those folks over at MPR Classical are having more fun than should be legal.
A while back I wrote about how Emily Reese is interviewing composers who create scores for video games, in a series called "Top Score." The show brings together two Reese's great loves - classical music, and gaming.
Bill Morelock and Lynn Warfel, hosts of Roll Credits. Oh wait, that's Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh...
Knowing Morelock and Warfel, the show will be a witty and entertaining exploration of some of the most memorable movies in history, and the music that helped make them so.
Tonight at 8pm the show gets underway by looking at some of the films of 1939: Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Of Mice and Men, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Wizard of Oz.