Friday, April 9, 2010


Dizzy Gillespie I'm in hot water again, Dizzy. I attended the Danilo Perez: 21st-Century Dizzy concert Thursday night at Hill Auditorium instead of taking my wife out for her birthday. I'm sure that qualifies me for some terrible husband citation, and I guarantee my wife will make me pay dearly. For the next six weeks, I will be eating vegetarian TV dinners. Dizzy, between you and me, what I did was insensitive, but I don't regret it because your protégé' pianist Danilo Perez put on a great show. The concert promoter didn't label the group as an all-star band. The jazz musicians Perez recruited are all-stars in my book. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, and trumpeter Amir ElSaffar were on the frontline. Bassist Ben Street, drummer Adam Cruz and percussionist Jamey Haddad handled the rhythm section duties.

Having that many stars occupying the same stage could've been a disaster. Perez run a tight and a discipline band. The musicians left their egos out in the cold. The concert was about paying tribute to your music. Perez adhered to that. He didn't govern the band with an iron fist. He gave the musician leeway, and they demonstrated their appreciation.

Perez opened the concert with a suite to get the band warmed up before tackling your signature material. Dizzy, it didn't take long for the band to get going. On the next tune, Sanchez, Mahanthappa and ElSaffar got into a shoot out. You would've liked ElSaffar. He's comfortable dwelling in the upper register of the trumpet. When he hit those hard to reach notes soloing on "Salt Peanuts," he rose on his tiptoes as if he was reaching for can goods in the kitchen cabinet.

Sanchez arranged "A Night in Tunisia," and he kept the juicy parts for himself. I have several of his albums, but I never experienced him live. He's a powerful tenor player. I was concerned he would blow the people in the front row from their seats. I was awed by how Mahanthappa mountain climbed the changes on "Woody N You". Dizzy I'm hard on drummers. Cruz was bombastic but in a good way.

I've experienced Perez twice as pianist for hirer in Wayne Shorter's quartet. As a pianist Perez is sophisticated and explosive. Most jazz pianist I know are either or. Perez showed his sophisticated side on the Thelonious Monk pearl "'Round Midnight," opening with a picturesque passage that would've made Monk tear up. Dizzy, Perez is a wonderful job keeping your music going. The audience gave a lengthy ovation, and demanded an encore. If Perez hadn't obliged, there would've been a riot for sure. Perez and his band merry band of swingers refined your classics.
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