The last time pianist Danilo Perez played the Jazz Showcase, he did something his fans have been begging him to: he recorded his working trio live in a club. Now he returns to the scene to celebrate the imminent Web-only release of that recording. Of course, the clamor for a live disc didn’t arise because there’s any lack of fire, expertise, or conceptual depth in Perez’s studio albums: over the past decade he’s recorded ambitious compositions, brilliantly executed, with groups ranging from a trio to a ten-piece ensemble (the latter for Suite of the Americas, commissioned by the city for the 1999 Chicago Jazz Festival and excerpted on the 2000 Verve disc Motherland). It’s just that in an intimate setting, in front of a crowd, Perez is pure magic–an improviser of the highest order. He spins powerful stories with his music, both entrancing and incisive, and juggles lots of other elements just as expertly: he changes the pacing of his sets from night to night, depending on where each rendition of a given tune takes him, and actively engages the audience with his thousand-kilowatt personality. For that matter, he’s built his entire approach to performance around a brilliantly balanced synthesis of the rhythms of jazz and those of South America, the Caribbean, and his native Panama. His working trio features drummer Adam Cruz–who last played the Showcase all of two weeks ago, in the quartet led by saxist David Sanchez–and bassist Ben Street. Friday 8, 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. See also Saturday and Sunday.

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