Less than two months after the premiere of his commissioned piece Suite of the Americas at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Danilo Perez returns to town not as a composer but as one of the most vibrant and vital pianists in jazz, at the head of his regular trio. Perez’s explosive technique, charismatic connection with his audience, and mastery of the rhythmic subtleties underpinning both jazz and Caribbean musics–from Hispaniola to his native Panama–have already made the 33-year-old’s performances the stuff of legend, at once grandly unified and overflowing with intricate detail. But his powerhouse stage presence has eclipsed Perez’s talent as a composer; in fact Suite of the Americas, written for avant-garde soprano saxist Steve Lacy, Chicago blues guitarist John Primer, and Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, received mixed reviews. Almost every piece sounds worst at its premiere, though, where it’s often underrehearsed and never familiar to its players; what’s more, in this case the sound at Grant Park obscured the contributions of Lacy and Souza. Perez plans to release a studio recording of the piece next year, which should clarify for everyone its imaginative voicings and the strength of its Pan-American concept. Even in its one real failing–Perez himself has admitted that he tried to cram too much into one package–the piece displays the cinematic sweep of its composer’s developing musical intellect. Perez and his trio will perform Tuesday through next weekend; the following Monday he’ll be joined by Lacy, in town for another engagement, in a duo performance–reprising the memorable Cultural Center concert that preceded the Jazz Festival. At that show Perez added yet another line to his glowing resume, getting inside not just Lacy’s compositions but also his sound and style, engaging the saxist’s difficult music with rare insight. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, November 5 and 6, 9 and 11 PM, next Sunday, November 7, 4, 8, and 10 PM, and next Monday, November 8 (with Lacy), 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.