On most of his own recordings, versatile Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez attempts to connect traditions from Latin America, Africa, and Spain within a jazz context. Though consistently interesting, this process hasn’t always resulted in his best work. His last album, Motherland (Verve, 2000), performed by a diverse cast of 17, sounded overstuffed, as if Perez hoped to cram a single disc full of every idea he’s had about the way music mutates when influenced by new cultures. Someday Perez might just pull it off, but until then, his smart pan-stylistic approach is best experienced when he plays straight jazz. Also in 2000 he recorded in a trio with legendary bebop drummer Roy Haynes, and for most of the past year and a half he’s been a key player in the thrilling comeback of saxophonist Wayne Shorter. In both settings he commutes smoothly between adventurous postbop improvisation and dance-inducing son montuno grooves. Perez frequently uses his piano as percussion, subdividing rhythms here, syncopating others there. On Shorter’s excellent Footprints Live! (Verve), Perez and drummer Brian Blade engage in subtle improvisations, dissecting chord progressions and rhythmic patterns with a surgical precision that sometimes disrupts the flow of the music. Perez’s recordings barely hint at the rippling muscle of his live performances: at the Jazz Showcase a few years ago he ripped his own tunes wide open, brandishing a mix of aggression and free-jazz flight. He’s joined by bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz. Friday and Saturday, September 20 and 21, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, September 22, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.