In this day and age, what does free playing mean?
Does it have to mean an absence of form, of set meter? Does it merely mean crazy expirimental freedom? What about Wayne Shorter’s current quartet, where the form of a tune changes with each performance? I thought about all of these questions listening to Danielo Perez’s current trio. (Not coincidentally, Danilo is the current pianist in Wayne’s band.) The band played six distinct tunes- jazz standards (“Con Alma”, Bouncin with Bud”), pop standards (Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed”), Latin Standards ("Rabo de Nube", known to some listeners from Charlie Haden’s “Dream Keeper record) and two of Danielo’s originals- but the forms were suggestions rather than set borders.
The time was clearly stated 90% of the time, but no one player felt beholden to playing groove, pulse or time feel. This was especially obvious on the standards- throughout “Con Alma” they played the time and the form explicitly, but no one played ever walked a bassline, or held a groove. It reminded me of the great Bill Evans trio’s interplay, with a Latin rather than a swing rhythmic foundation. The tune eventually morphed into the gorgeous “Rabo de Nube”. “Bouncin’ with Bud” came with a wink and a nudge- the form was still obvious, but the time was taffee, and there was ample, if virtuosic, clowning in the piano solo. “Overjoyed” obeyed the rules of form most closely, if only because the tune alternated between 7/8 and 6/8, (It is recorded this way on Danielo’s disappointing “Til Then” record)
Ben Street and Adam Cruz are exceptional foils for Danielo, virtuosic without being flashy, and the trio has an empathy that comes for the unusual combination of personal chemistry and a lot of gigging. Cruz took only one solo, on another original for Daniela, which sounded as much like timbales as a drum kit.
Shorter’s influence on the way Danilo approached trio playing is obvious, especially to fans who have followed his full career. There is at once a looseness and a supreme confidence that isn’t as evident even on “Motherland”, probably his best recording. Unfortunately, this post-Wayne version of the trio has yet to be documented. Here’s hoping- especially if it’s a live record. (CORRECTION- Danilo has released a trio record via ArtistShare, available at his website. It would help if when I google him I spell his name right.)
One major complaint- I was sitting towards the back of the room, and sitting there I noticed just how bad the piano sounded- the miking made the sound like it was a mile away, and not 40 feet. I’ve heard so many pianists rant about proper care and miking of pianos in clubs that I usually tune it out. But the Regattabar piano is almost universally well regarded, and was in tune, so it was frustrating to hear the miking diminish the quality of the gig.