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12 Mar

Danilo Perez Interview

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Danilo Perez is a musician, philanthropist, and educator. A Grammy award winner Danilo Perez is among the most influential and dynamic musicians of our time. He is an active musician on the international jazz scene and educator; he is also the UNESCO Artist for Peace and the director and founder of the Panama Jazz Festival. Jazzonline talked to him few days before his performance at Gazarte on March 23, 2014

1- You are a very active musician on the international jazz scene and educator; you are also the UNESCO Artist for Peace and the director and founder of the Panama Jazz Festival. How can you manage and combine all those activities ?
 I have a tremendous team working with me that includes with my wife Patricia Zarate and a group of highly effective, productive, intelligent people that understand deeply the mission and commitment to see humanistic positive change through the lens of music.  After years of study, work and research, they now, can use music as a tool to provoke positive social change, promote intercultural and interracial understanding, and help in the process of the restoration of human kind.

2-You are considered as one of the finest contemporary pianists and jazz composers of our era. You grow up in Panama but your were notably influenced by the works of Gershwin, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk . Is that right or is there any other important influences you would you like to mention, and what about those influences ?
These musicians have made tremendous contributions in my life, but there other great musicians that were very important because I actually spend time with them includes Dizzy Gillespie , Papo Lucca (a great salsa pianist from Puerto Rico), Herbie Hancock and my father figure Mr Wayne Shorter who taught me to write, improvise and play music the way I would like the world to be like.

3-You have played with living jazz legends and some of the biggest name of contemporary jazzs such as  Dizzy Gillespie, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Tito Puente, Gerardo Núñez, Wynton Marsalis, John Patitucci, Tom Harrell, Gary Burton, Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes, Steve Lacy, Ben Street, Adam Cruz, Jon Hendricks, Terence Blanchard, Paquito D'Rivera and many others. You have a fantastic career. How does that feel and what else could you wish ? Is there something  you would like to do next  (something you always wanted to do but you never did until now )
 It has been a wonderful journey full of lessons and all these opportunities mean more responsibility.  As long as I am alive I will want to be growing and experimenting, there is so many things I want to do next: I love to get the opportunity to do more collaboration and record with classical chamber orchestras , string quartets, etc.  I would love to do a piano solo and a collaboration with my favorite singers. I would like to do like record with my father and my wife. I would love to record with Brian blade and John Patitucci Children of the Light Trio.


4-Your last release Panama 500 is a tribute to your country. It has been said : ” Panama 500 is Pérez’ most ambitious project to date , the furthest evolution yet of what he calls “three-dimensional music.” His blend of influences makes him the ideal musical chronicler of his country’s history” Could you tell us few words about it
 Panama 500 creates a personal journey that captures the different challenges the Spaniards, native Indians, and slaves faced during their journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific during colonization. This piece is based on my concept called three-dimensional music that combines jazz, Pan-American folklore, and classical music. It has melodic references to traditional Panamanian folklore mixed with North American blues and improvisations, fused with harmonic language from my background in classical music, jazz and folklore.

5- You have been touring all over Europe this month and your last concert is in Athens. Then you will be touring again in June in the States. So you are always on move and visiting different countries. Where is the best place to play your music?  Do you feel a difference from one country to another?  The music has no borders or limits – is it the same for the audience?
 There is no best or worst place. Each country has a different energy and brings a different aspect of the music alive. My group feeds of diversity and while in some countries we feel the need to explore more harmony, in others, we need to explore a more rhythmic approach.


6- You also give a lot of yourself for education. You have a foundation The Danilo Perez Foundation, who provides opportunities for young people. How this foundation was born?
After the creation of the Panama Jazz Festival I felt the need to give more structure to the educational work I have been doing in Panama for almost 28 years and in 2005 with the help of my family and friends we decided to open the Foundation. This foundation works with human development which is a concept that has been developing since the 1960's when my father started including music in the regular class of schools in regions of extreme poverty in Panama and realized children learned all subjects better with music.


7- About the Panama jazz festival. Your are the foundator of this annual jazz ceremony in Panama. How this idea came up ? Could talk to us about it.
 It actually came to me while playing with Dizzy Gillespie in San Sebastian, Spain. I saw how the jazz festival transformed the town, and made it into a cultural touristic magnet .. I thought I would love to see this happen in my country .. We just celebrated our eleventh year and are preparing for next festival which will take place in 2015 on january 12-17.

Interview Patricia Graire - March 2014 -

More about Danilo Perez http://jazzonline.gr/en/articlesinterviews/musicians-in-town/item/1040-danilo-perez.html

More about his last album http://jazzonline.gr/en/jazznews/cd-from-abroad/item/2518-panama-danilo-perez.html

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 18:43