Danilo Perez Quartet | Jazz Showcase | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Danilo Perez Quartet 

When: Thu., Sept. 18, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., Sept. 19, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., Sept. 20, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., Sept. 21, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2014
Price: $25-$30, $40-$45 for VIP
Brilliant Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez thinks big, and as a bandleader almost every album he’s made has had some sort of conceptual underpinning—sometimes it’s simple, such as his adaptations of Thelonious Monk’s music that incorporate Latin American rhythms, and sometimes it’s dazzingly complex, such as the densely arranged suites he wrote to explore the complex interplay of cultures throughout the Caribbean’s turbulent history. Lately he’s deployed large canvases and loads of guest musicians to make his points, and his compositions have often collapsed (or at least sagged) under the weight of his ambitions. Perez’s latest album, Panama 500 (Mack Avenue), provides a musical portrait of his homeland that covers its five centuries of multicultural history since the arrival of Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513, but he renders its rich patchwork with a smaller, nimbler group of musicians. He alternately leads two different rhythm sections made up of trusted collaborators—bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz (from his working trio) and bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade (his bandmates in the Wayne Shorter Quartet). Perez’s fluid compositions incorporate elements from Afro-Caribbean music, classical, and postbop, and a handful of guests help out with the regional flavors—Cuban conguero and vocalist Roman Diaz appears on the opening track, for instance. When Panama 500 uses strings, they aren’t in gloppy arrangements, so they don’t blunt the intuitive fire that Perez sparks in his sidemen; the judicious improvisations are inextricably and transparently connected to the sophisticated compositions. For this engagement Perez is joined by Cruz, bassist Tal Gamlieli, and harmonica player Roni Eytan. —Peter Margasak

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