When he appeared in Chicago a couple years ago, the Panamanian-born pianist Danilo Perez dropped an offhand remark about the inherently Latin rhythms in the music of Thelonious Monk–a surprising comment and, as it turned out, one to whet the appetite as well. Earlier this year Perez released the delightful Panamonk (Impulse), on which he applied a subtle array of Afro-Caribbean rhythms to seven Monk tunes. On the album’s liner notes, he also elaborated on the connection he sees between Monk and mambo, stating that “Latin rhythms move in and out of each other and that is the way Monk plays.” In this project, Perez clearly danced in the footsteps of Jerry Gonzalez, the trumpeter-percussionist who previously recorded an album of Latinate Monk (and who also appears in Chicago this weekend); but Perez’s appreciation for Monk’s piano voicings and clunkily balanced rhythms make the juxtaposition that much cleaner. Even before Panamonk, which will presumably supply much of his repertoire this weekend, Perez had established himself among the sterling jazz musicians of the under-30 generation. A veteran of groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Tom Harrell, and Paquito D’Rivera, this Berklee-educated pianist excels at unreconstructed jazz–bearing the torch of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett–as well as pure salsa; but his real strength lies in the seamless hybrid he has bred of the two. He has undertaken a panoramic investigation of the place where these compatible musics intersect, bringing to it none of the antedated glibness that has marked so many such attempts in the past. He has a marvelously weighted touch and a big two-handed technique, and his tempos seem to jump from the keyboard. Perez promises to become an increasingly important part of jazz in the new millennium: catch him now, so you can say you saw him when. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Perez will also host a “Holiday Kids’ Jazz Workshop” Friday, 1 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division, 773-235-3232, and perform at Jazz Record Mart, Saturday, 2 PM, 444 N. Wabash, 312-222-1467.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Danilo Perez photo.