“When I met him, I remember this feeling I had, like when we were kids and we’d say ‘Let’s go outside to play!’ Yes, it was that self-same feeling!” Which is what Wayne Shorter once said about Danilo Pérez, a pianist whose efforts to achieve “a genuinely organic combination” of his musical roots led him to conceived and cultivate his “three-dimensional idiom” – with jazz, classical and Latin music as the three dimensions. His compositions and improvisations are robustly tender, impervious to fashion, with unexpected phrasing, a fearless approach to improvisation and a clear desire to tell a story. Employing a number of tonalities, his music is profoundly real, familiar yet exotic, a melodic river of colours from a thousand different sources grounded in dance rhythms which he “sabotages with brief pauses and time signature shifts”.
Danilo Pérez was born in Panama in 1965. He started piano lessons aged three with his father, a singer and bandleader, and by the age of ten, he was studying the classical repertoire in Panama. He went on to continue his studies in the US (Indiana, Berklee), where he combined theory with practice. When still very young, he was invited to play alongside legendary jazzmen including Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Terence Blanchard and Claudio Roditi. In 1989, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra as its youngest member. During his time with the ensemble, he would tour the world and embrace the World Jazz concept that has been so central to his amazing career. A three times Grammy award nominee, he was also nominated for “Pianist of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists’ Association in 2002. The first Latin American musician to play in the band of the celebrated trumpet player, Wynton Marsalis, he was also the first jazz musician to work with the Panama Symphony Orchestra. He has recorded with jazz legends including Tito Puente, John Patitucci, Gary Burton, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden and Wayne Shorter. Steve Lacy has said: "There's nobody like Danilo. What I especially like is his sense of rhythm, colour and form. He's studied, he's open, he's flexible, generous and sweet. This guy's got everything, all the qualities are there!”
Danilo Pérez now lives in Boston and works with or directs a number of festivals, institutions, cultural centres and music schools. His recent album Providencia (Mack Avenue Records) was glowingly reviewed by the international music press.