It was for the piano that I went to the Danilo Perez Trio intimate concert during the White City Music Festival. I even brought an old piano student of mine along.
Sure, they were a great trio and respect is due for all three musicians – Danilo Perez on piano, Adam Cruz on drums, and and Ben Street on bass. But me, I went for the piano.
It was a Yamaha grand that took up a sizeable portion of the stage in a large warehouse-like space meant for smaller concerts. The place really gave the feel of a jazz club more than a concert hall, which I thought was very appropriate. Between the handsome musicians – the drummer was particularly adorable – the ambiance of the hall-turned-jazz-bar, and the soulful numbers that made up the repertoire, there were all the makings of an evening of romantic jazz.
Songs played during the evening included “Historia de une amore,” “Everything happens to me," “Daniela” (a song he composed for his daughter), and “Round Midnight.” Clearly this trio is taken with the theme of love and romance.
One particularly striking number was Danilo’s version of “Besame Mucho”. The number starts off on piano only, giving Danilo the chance to show off his control of the keys, which he infused with a nocturnal quality. As with the other pieces that were played during the evening, the sounds were perfection, seamlessly integrating Latin rhythms into known and less known classics. One key feature of his improvisational style is the repetitive refrain that characterizes his music and relentlessly mounts dissonance and tension, until it’s finally released with the joining of the drums and bass.
Born in Panama in 1965 to a musician father who was both a bandleader and singer, Danilo started studying music as early as three. His very young romance with jazz continued when he became the youngest member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra in 1989. His connection to Panama and her Latin rhythms adds another dimension to his interpretations of jazz standards as well as his own compositions, like Galactic Panama with which the trio opened the evening.
I found the versatility of this musician remarkable. For the closing number, he completely engaged the audience and had us participate in a unique number. We offered the trio a steady accompaniment by whistling a tune back to him, over and over, while he was beatboxing and tapping the piano, without actually playing the keys, along with the bass and drums.
And of course, at the end of the concert, despite Danilo’s sincere apologies to a cheering audience begging for more that the show must end due to time constraints, the relentless crowd forced him into one encore.
Welcome to Israel, Danilo.