Providencia will be released August 31, 2010Cory the barber was sweeping up hair off the living room floor when I entered his two-bedroom apartment. Before I arrived, Cory had just finished giving a customer a hair cut. Cory made his apartment available to a handful of his customers who couldn't make it to the barbershop during regular business hours. For the inconvenience he charges them double, which they gladly pay. In July, he moved from Redford to Detroit’s New Center to be closer to his ten-year-old daughter, Inez, who lived with her mom three blocks over. Cory’s place was neater than a doctor’s waiting room. Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez’s new album "Providencia" played on a wooden antique-like record player that also pIays cds.
Mack Avenue Records will officially release the album next Tuesday, so I wondered how Cory got his hands on an advanced copy. Maybe a customer hooked him up with a bootleg copy. I was on Cory's neck of the woods hanging out with my aunt Ella. We had lunch. She lives in a nursing home near Cory, and twice a month I visit her. Last week, Cory loaned me a box set of tenor saxophonist John Coltrane's Prestige recordings. On the way home, I stopped by Cory's place to return it. He propped the broom and dustpan against the wall. We embraced. Then I handed him the box set, and he examined each disc. I asked if he planned to return my security deposit that he demanded when he agreed to let me borrow the box set. Whenever Cory loans friend an album, he requires a security deposit upfront in case the albums come back damaged.
"You had this box set so long I forgot about it," Cory joked. He placed the set on the coffee table next to a framed photo of Inez posing with saxophonist Tia Fuller at the Detroit jazz fest. I set on Cory’s distressed leather couch while he adjusted the volume on the record player.
“You want a beer." Cory said walking into the kitchen.
“No. I just had lunch with my aunt.” Cory returned with a Red Stripe beer. He took a swig. Then placed it on the current issue of JazzTimes magazine with Miles Davis on the cover.
"Where did you get the Danilo Perez album from"'?
“I know people who know people,” Cory shot back. Cory’s connection was a hustler who sold bootleg DVDs in front of the BP gas station next to the barbershop where Cory works.
"DL Media sent me an advance copy a few months ago," I said.
"I had a chance to hear Danilo at Hill Auditorium It was a great concert. I really like him as a leader.
"I was at that gig".
"I didn't see you there"
"I was sitting up front with all the important people."
"The first time I played ‘Providencia’ I’d mixed feelings about it. I thought it was too sappy.”
"The suite was inspired by his daughter. Maybe that's why 'Daniela Chronicles' came off sentimental. Danilo a heavy thinker and an emotional piano player”.
"Sometimes, the intellectual type jazz musicians make music that only they understand."
"Just because you don't get the music doesn't mean something is wrong with it."
"What's the point of making music that only the musician understands"?
"Danilo sounds a lot like Monk at times. That always seems to be a lot of space between the notes, especially on 'Daniela Chronicles."
"I wasn't feeling the first half of the album. It was so overwrought. The rest of the album I was totally into. A lot of jazz fans believe Kenny Garrett is the king of the alto sax. I disagree. Rudresh Mahanthappa is a better saxophonist. Just listen to how he riffs with Danilo on 'The Maze: The Beginning'. That's my favorite track. Rudresh is outstanding no matter who he plays with."
"I can't argue with that. On that track, I thought Danilo showed what a crafty improviser he is. He was eating the changes like cashews," Cory said.
"All the musicians on the album played their butts off, especially Danilo,” Cory said. He glanced at his wristwatch, and took another swig.
"The album probably won't make my best jazz album of 2010 list”. I confessed. “There's some stiff competition this year, but I would recommend it.
Cory finished the beer, and took the empty bottle in the kitchen. He grabbed his car keys off the end table.
"I have to pick up Inez from her friends. You want to ride with me? We can finish this discussion on the way," Cory said.
"No, I have a few more stops to make, but you can give me back that security deposit."
"You forfeited the deposit by not returning the box set on time," Cory said as we left his apartment.