The Panamanian pianist, composer, producer, bandleader Danilo Perez is no stranger to the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk. In 1996 he recorded Panamonk (Impulse!), which received rave reviews and was hailed by Downbeat magazine as one of “50 top essential piano recordings.”
Today, Danilo is an influential Grammy Award winner widely known for his work with jazz icons Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter and his recordings as a leader. Also, he is seasoned, and more sensitive to Monk’s “architecture and design.” “One of the beautiful things about growing as an artist is, everything you are exposed to influences you,” says Danilo. “When you revisit a tune or an artist like Monk, you see things that you didn’t see before, such as the sound, the emotion, the mystery, and beauty.”
Interestingly, before Panamonk Danilo wasn’t precisely into Monk’s music, but his perspective changed when he toured with Wynton Marsalis, who performed Monk’s repertoire with a Caribbean/New Orleans groove. Hearing the music played that way made him realize the connection between the clave, the African connection, and the folkloric music of his country. Also, he credits saxophonist, composer Steve Lacy, for helping him to understand Monk’s work more deeply.
Danilo is one of many Latino musicians who cite Monk as an influence. Among them: Eddie Palmieri aka “The Latin Monk,” Jerry Gonzalez (who can forget the 1989 album, Rumba Para Monk?) and, Omar Sosa, who praises Monk for embodying “the philosophy of freedom.”
Danilo began his musical training at the age of three with his father Danilo Sr, a professional bandleader and singer, who gave Danilo Jr. his first set of bongos. By the time he was ten he was studying the European Classical Piano repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama, eventually transferring to the Berklee College of Music to study Jazz composition and then serving as a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. Perez’s influences include the works of Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane among others.
His prominence increased exponentially when he moved to the United States. Also, Danllo played with living jazz legends that shaped his technique and style including Jon Hendricks, Dizzy Gillespie, Terence Blanchard, Claudio Roditi, Paquito D’ Rivera and Wynton Marsalis, Tito Puente and Charlie Haden among others.
At the Jazz Standard, the Trio will revisit Panamonk, draw from the Monk songbook and present new, original material. “Monk keeps helping me to ask more questions,” says Danilo. “He left a lot of ‘windows’ open. Now it’s up to us to open them.”
The Danilo Perez Trio features bassist Ben Street, and drummer Teri Lyne Carrington. Join them at the Jazz Standard as they celebrate the life and music of an American original and one of the 20th century’s most remarkable composers.