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What’s on Your Playlist? Oscar Perez

Jazzed Magazine • September 2011What's on Your Playlist? • September 20, 2011

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Pianist/composer/educator Oscar Perez is part of a new generation of musicians busy erasing the old distinctions between straight-ahead and Latin jazz, forging new group concepts by blending Afro-Caribbean rhythms and postbop idioms. With his second album, Afropean Affair, Perez places himself firmly in the forefront of this rising movement. Featuring his stellar young band Nuevo Comienzo, the CD focuses on the pianist’s original music, which he wrote to showcase his group’s prowess. Balancing poise and power, the combo features some of the most prodigious young players on the scene.

Perez, who grew up in Queens with a Cuban father and Colombian mother, has performed with a range of jazz masters including Wycliffe Gordon, Steve Turre, George Russell, Peter Bernstein, Charenee Wade and Cathy Elliott, and spent three years accompanying the late, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Phoebe Snow.

1. Danilo Perez – Providencia

As one of my heroes and teachers, all his music was influenced me, but this CD is truly special. I have seen Danilo come full circle with the music he started composing on Motherland. Along with Rudresh Mahanthappa, he has started incorporating Middle Eastern rhythms and harmonic flavors into both his writing and improvisations. This is the true meaning of world music. The openness he has explored playing with Wayne’s quartet really shines through here.


2. Chris Potter – Song for Anyone

This is Chris’s dedication to the late Michael Brecker. It is beautifully orchestrated using strings and woodwinds alongside with classic “jazz” instruments. The melodies are so haunting that I find myself listening to it for days at a time. It’s such a personal offering; I really feel the emotion and dedication. In the end, isn’t that the purpose of music?


 3. Bill Evans – Since We Met

This is classic Bill Evans trio. I love this particular trio with Eddie and Gomez and Marty Morrell. At this point Bill had established himself as one of the most important pianists and this trio played very refined with no need to impress.


4. Ruben Blades y Son del Solar – Live!

My uncle Jaime gave me this CD when I was in high school. It is one of those recordings that just make you want to dance, but it is very sophisticated in its use and execution of the Clave. The songs and its stories are so powerful plus the musicians are really dealing on this live set. I really dig the synth sounds, being a child of the ’80s. If only I had been old enough to see this concert!


5. Oscar Peterson Trio – London House Sessions, Vol. 1

Oscar is right up there with Art Tatum as far as content, technique and execution. The great thing about this CD is the arrangements. Check out the trio playing Chicago, they gave this tune a special treatment. And played it well for this audience as “The London House” was in Chicago. The trio was on fire and if your foot isn’t tapping halfway through the first tune, there’s something wrong.

6. Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pianist; André Previn, Conductor; London Symphony Orchestra – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2

I love the Russian composers. They all composed with such emotion and Rachmaninoff’s yearning and struggles with leaving Russia are really put on display here. His orchestrations are perfect and the triplet rhythms in the piano against the melodies in the woodwinds in the 2nd movement sound so natural, it makes you scratch your head when analyzing the score. With its beautiful melodies throughout, it’s a must listen.


 7. Chick Corea and Return to Forever –  Light as a Feather

Although I’ve always been a fan of this recording, I recently presented a masterclass of Chick’s music (right before Chick did his own masterclass!)  So I went back and really immersed myself in this recording. All the qualities that I hope to achieve with my working band are here. It has Brazilian and Latin rhythms, sure, but these musicians were also well steeped in playing jazz and blues..


8. Bruce Hornsby – Camp Meeting

Christian McBride gave me a blindfold test with this CD. I was guessing all kinds of pianists before I was let in on the not-so-secret fact that Bruce is a great pianist and interpreter of jazz. His arrangements of tunes such as “Giants Steps” incorporate drum loops, which fit well. Bruce’s reharmonization of “Solar” is truly original; employing those Hornsby chords he’s become known for.


9. Hillary Hahn and the LA Chamber Orchestra – Bach: Violin Concertos

I first heard this CD on a plane heading home after a long tour. It was part of the musical selections from their media center. I was exhausted and I thought that if I put on some nice string music and I’d drift off. That was not to be the case, I stayed awake the whole flight totally immersed in the performance. Hillary is an outstanding soloist, interpreting the music at a very high level.


10. John Patitucci – Songs, Stories and Spirituals

John’s blend of Brazilian and gospel really hit home for me. This is the record I put when I need inspiration, so it’s on my playlist quite a bit. Luciana Souza, Ed Simon, Tim Ries and Brian Blade all contribute their unique artistry. John’s writing is very precise and songs like “Now the River” showcase all his influences like classical and folk music. But in the end, there’s plenty of room for masterful improvisations making this CD a repeat listen.

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