Life lessons

By JON GARELICK  |  September 8, 2008

But Shorter is a sophisticated musician — couldn’t he have just told Pérez to drop the major second? “I had a very similar experience with Dizzy. He had a very particular way of coloring his voicings, and I asked him, ‘How do you get those voicings?’ He said, ‘Put your hands on the piano.’ So I did. He said, ‘Lift one finger. Lift the other. Lift the other. . . . See, all you gotta do is listen!’ Oh my goodness, okay!” Pérez laughs uproariously. “So I was looking for that mystery question and what I got was: you have to do it. Research. I’m not going to tell you something specific, because you have to do the work.”

In his teaching (private lessons at Berklee, ensemble classes at NEC), Pérez is trying to instill the same adventurousness. Living in South Boston with his wife, the saxophonist and composer Patricia Zarate and their two daughters, he’s an indefatigable Boston booster. Although Panama Suite had first been performed in Chicago as a commission, the recording was done in Boston, a co-production with Berklee, using many of his current and former students — who nailed the piece’s complex rhythms and counterpoint with more accuracy and nuance than the pros who first tackled it could muster. “That’s when I experienced what Boston means to me — it’s a laboratory. The story of Boston, the history of the music and jazz, is very unknown to the whole city, and that’s something that I still can’t figure out. When I go to New York, the amount of energy that comes from people who came through here first — not just musicians but original voices who are pushing the music forward — the percentage is the highest.”

I’m reminded of Pérez’s feelings when he first joined Shorter’s band, his learning to deal with shows where there was no set list, and where the band’s early efforts could meet with little or no applause. “I’m struggling, and Wayne would say, ‘That’s it! You’re doing it right!’ He said, ‘You feel like you’re in an ear-training class?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘That’s it!’ ”

DANILO PÉREZ TRIO | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | September 12-13 | 7:30 pm: $24 | 10 pm: $22 | 617.395.7757

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