Many will know the Panamanian Pérez through his scintillating work in the Wayne Shorter quartet. The name of the group he features on this, his 12th album as leader, reminds us of an earlier and especially formative period in a career which includes work with, for example, Joe Lovano, Tito Puente and Steve Lacy, Gary Burton, Charlie Haden and Wynton Marsalis.
Born in Panama in 1966, in his early 20s Pérez became the youngest member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra and stayed until Gillespie’s death in 1992. He recalls: “[Dizzy] wanted to be remembered as a humanitarian. This was my first experience with jazz as something beyond a style of music. I remember one time playing a solo, and I was very proud of playing in the bebop language, everybody was complimenting me, but Dizzy said: ‘That’s good, young man, but you can bring some more of your Panamanian folklore into it.’ I will never forget that.”
Sumptuously produced and packaged, the multi-cultural Crisálida features alumni of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute founded and directed by Pérez. Alongside his wife, Chilean vocalist Patricia Zárate Pérez, the Global Messengers include the Iraqi-Jordanian violinist Layth Sidiq, American vocalist Farayi Male, Greek laouto player Vasilis Kostas, Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash and Tareq Rantisi, a master of Arabic percussion.
As sensuous and driving as it is spiritual and reflective, the subtly textured, intimate yet potent music – addressed in large part to “the humanitarian crisis” of today – is delivered in two compelling suites. As one would expect from the leader, there are transmuted touches of both European impressionism and Monk (remember Pérez’s highly rated Panamonk from 1996) in an entrancing web of what Don Cherry would have called “world music”. I’m tempted to single out the work of Pérez and Sidiq for special mention – but that would be to sunder the collective impact of the richly woven whole.
La Muralla (Glass Wall) Suite: Rise From Love; Monopatia (Pathways); Calling For The Dawn; Murotopia; Fronteras (Borders) Suite: Adrift; Al-Musafir Blues; Kalesma (True Calling); Unknown Destination (50.10)
Pérez (p); Farayi Malek (v); Vasilis Kostas (laouto); Layth Sidiq (vn, v); Naseem Alatrash (clo): Tareq Rantisi (pc); plus (variously) Faris Ishaq (ney f); Roman Diaz (bata, spoken word); Erini (v); Patricia Zarate Pérez (spoken word); Kalesma Children’s Choir of The Ark of The World. Boston c. 2021.
Mack Avenue Records MC 1178