Oct 23, 2010
You can put it on the list right now - Danilo Perez’s’ Providencia is one of the ten best jazz CD’s of 2010. The Panamanian pianist has made his reputation with a tremendous ability to turn the staid and expected into something special, whether as a bandleader or the sideman of choice for Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes and the late Steve Lacey. I was fortunate to see Perez and Lacey in a small club in Boston a few years back, working their magic on the Thelonious Monk catalog, interpreting and reinterpreting material that had long ago been put on a pedestal. Providencia is a major statement from Perez, as he asserts his abilities as composer, performer and leader, mixing Latin-influenced tunes with small and larger group numbers to great effect.
Perez works with the outstanding young alto sax player Rudresh Mahanthappa here, and together they wrote one of the album’s highlights, the two part workout “The Maze”. Together they call to mind the Coltrane-Tyner team of the mid-Sixties, as Mahanthappa takes an extended solo while Perez keeps him on course with his probing fingers. The second part is as gentle as the first is manic, and ends the album on a sweet, lingering note.
Perez’s songwriting is top notch on this collection. The epic “Daniela’s Chronicles” starts the album, with Perez attempting to create a musical portrait of his daughter’s childhood. He fully succeeds in creating a cinematic feel. His elegy for his former teacher, “The Oracle (Dedicated to Charlie Banacos), gives Perez and Mahanthappa a lovely melody line to work with, as the pianist showcases his right hand with a series of caressing runs.
The CD shifts sounds on a dime, and always with great effect. The rhythmic “Galactic Panama” showcases Adam Cruz on drums, just as “Bridge of Life, Part I” allows the unusual instrumentation of flute, oboe, French horn and bassoon to bring the music to life. Wordless vocals from Sara Serpa on the title track recall Flora Purim at her finest.
Never far from his roots, Perez includes two covers of his Latin favorites on the CD. Carlos Eleta Almaran’s“Un Historia de un Amor” is presented in a style reminiscent of Keith Jarrett’s most recent trios, but still uniquely his own, as Perez plays with subtlety, and yet with great emotion.