Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Pérez is a leader in a new generation of jazz musicians. An innovative and immensely talented player with a sophisticated grasp of jazz traditions, Danilo is never content to simply rehash the music of earlier masters. By combining distinctive Latin rhythms with his abiding love for jazz, he's earned a reputation as an artist who transcends conventional definitions of jazz. A dynamic force intent upon moving the music several steps forward, Danilo Pérez has already left a remarkably fresh imprint on contemporary music.
Universal acclaim for Danilo began with the 1994 release of The Journey, his second Novus recording, widely acknowledged as his breakthrough album. PanaMonk, Danilo's 1996 debut on the Impulse! label, attracted even more attention. This irrepressibly spunky, yet highly polished, reinterpretation of Thelonious Monk's music secured Danilo's place as an outstanding player and original composer. The GRAMMY®-nominated Central Avenue (Impulse!, 1998), showcased Danilo's compositional prowess, kinetic technique, and a broad diversity of styles, while fully embracing his Panamanian roots. Danilo makes his debut on the legendary Verve label with 2000's Motherland, a heartfelt homage to the music of the Americas. The record, which focuses on the roots of Panamanian music as well as American, European, African, and Native Indian heritages, find the peerless pianist capturing the essence of America's complex personality through a masterful blend of musical elements.
Recently named Cultural Ambassador to Panama, Danilo Pérez absorbs and revitalizes a wide range of musical interests and passions. He says, "It is often said that Panama is 'the heart of the universe and the bridge to the world.' I wanted to celebrate Panama by showcasing its culture. Motherland will help show where our culture fits in with the rest of Latin America and with the rest of the world."
Like PanaMonk and Central Avenue, Motherland was produced by GRAMMY®-award winner and Verve Music Group chairman Tommy LiPuma, whose short list includes producing Natalie Cole's Unforgettable album, George Benson's classic Breezin', and Diana Krall's GRAMMY®-winning When I Look In Your Eyes. "Working with Tommy opened my mind," says Danilo. "He gives you a lot of support, takes your worries away so you can not only play the best you can, but so you can experiment fully. He puts no limits on my creativity."
Danilo's career highlights so far include:
. Danilo was invited to perform a solo concert at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, early in the year 2000.
. In 1999, the Chicago Jazz Festival commissioned him to create a piece of music for the festival's centerpiece. That composition, "Suite of the Americas," is included on Motherland.
. Central Avenue was named one of the 1998's ten best records by many publications, including: Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Billboard, and The Chicago Sun-Times.
. Central Avenue earned the Boston Music Award for Best Jazz Album.
. At the first annual New York Jazz Awards in June 1998, a consortium of record producers, media, club owners, managers, and agents bestowed their "Best Artist or Band in Performance" award on Danilo.
. Danilo has graced the covers of such publications as DownBeat, Jazziz, Jazz Hot, and Northeast Performer.
. Danilo's talents as film score composer have also attracted great praise. He composed and performed the music for Hugo Pool, (Robert Downey Sr., director, 1997); for PBS' "BreakThrough: People Of Color In American Science," (produced in 1995 by Blackside, Inc., the Emmy and Oscar-winning company famed for "Eyes On The Prize"); for The Winter In Lisbon (starring Dizzy Gillespie, 1990); and played piano on the Cosby theme song (CBS-TV).
. In 1997, he was commissioned to write a piece for the renowned Concorso Internazionale di Composizione, Bologna, Italy. He performed an extended version of Central Avenue's "Blues For The Saints" with vibraphonist Gary Burton and the Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Emilia-Romagna, conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk (acclaimed Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra). The concert was televised and aired throughout Italy.
. PanaMonk, praised by The New York Times as "a masterpiece of jazz synthesis," earned Top Ten Jazz Album of 1996 citations from the New York Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, London Sunday Times, Billboard, Latin Beat, Jazziz, and JazzTimes among many others, and was voted Best Jazz Album of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.
. Both PanaMonk and The Journey were named as two of the best jazz CDs of the '90s in DownBeat.
. The Journey placed prominently in several Top Ten Albums of 1994 lists and earned four-and-a-half stars from Downbeat, as well as a Jazziz Critics' Choice Award.
These high honors are no surprise to anyone who's experienced Danilo's live concerts. "I look forward to a positive exchange whenever I play-a give and take with the audience," says the ebullient musician. "I feel like a doctor who gives medicine for people's souls. It's about more than performing-it's a feeling of goodness, an offering a fullness of energy for their journey." His own journey has been marked by collaborations with others who share his passion for the music that knows no barriers, beginning with early influences at home.
Born in Panama in 1966, Danilo started musical studies at just three years of age with his father, a bandleader and singer. By age 10, he was studying the European classical piano repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama. After changing his major of electronics to music, he moved to the United States and enrolled in the prestigious Berklee College of Music. While completing his degree in jazz composition, he performed with Jon Hendricks, Claudio Roditi, and Paquito D'Rivera, and produced the critically-acclaimed Reunion album (Messidor) featuring D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. In 1994, Danilo also appeared on Sandoval's Grammy®-winning album, Danzón.
Danilo's extraordinary command of the eclectic, post-bop Latin style solidified during his 1989-1992 tenure with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra. He performed at Gillespie's induction ceremonies at the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Awardsm, on the Orchestra's 1992 Grammy®-winning Live At The Royal Festival Hall (Enja), and on a worldwide Gillespie tribute tour (All-Star Diamond Jubilee Celebration), crowned by a live recording at The Blue Note, To Bird With Love (Telarc).