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Danilo Pérez Brings Wayne Shorter to Berklee Global Jazz Summit

Shorter to lecture, teach and perform with Pérez, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington and John Patitucci to celebrate the Berklee Global Jazz Institute’s first year

Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez in performance at 2011 Panama Jazz Festival
Wayne Shorter Quartet

“We’re going to gather as family without any pretentious personalities and really just experience music in its purest level of improvisation incarnate,” says Danilo Pérez artistic director of The Berklee Global Jazz Institute.

This family gathering, a concert on Monday, April 25 at 8:15 pm at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, will kick off Berklee’s three-day Jazz Summit for Humanity and Peace, a first anniversary celebration of the Institute, featuring performances, film screenings and master’s classes. The “family” will include institute faculty Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington and John Patitucci, and Berklee student musicians with guest of honor, Wayne Shorter.

“Instead of just doing a concert or just getting together to do music for the sake of music,” says Pérez, “we’re really bringing up the idea that when we play, we are actually meaning to possibly change the world. Through jazz, by coming together as a community, we’re saying ‘Here’s to human hope.’ We’re saying ‘Here’s to the changes.'”

It’s a message that has defined his career and one he has found in common with the Summit’s special guest.

“I really couldn’t find a better person than Wayne Shorter,” he says, “who, I’ve been mentored [by] for 11 years now. He’s all about that. He’s all about interactive learning, about humanity, about playing music for a better world, playing what you believe deeply it should be like. You know, it just felt so appropriate to do.”

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute grew out of Berklee’s support of the work Pérez has been doing for over 25 years to connect jazz performance to social change. In his native country, Pérez founded the Panama Jazz Festival, a gathering that regularly attracts some of jazz’s greatest luminaries and audiences in the tens of thousands. Music education is at the core of the festival’s mission. The annual event includes clinics and masters classes to students from across Latin America.

Students and faculty at the Institute now work and perform at this festival each year. It’s just one of many cultural exchanges they participate in throughout Latin America and Europe. They engage in outreach of all kinds locally as well, performing, for example, in retirement homes and in prisons. “We provide an opportunity for the kids to interact with community,” Pérez says, “so that they get that human experience through connecting the purpose of music in this world.”

The Institute also focuses on interdisciplinary learning, he explains. Students learn art history, travel to art museums, write poetry and study the work of writers like Elizabeth Bishop and James Joyce and are then encouraged to express what they have absorbed musically.

“You really digest other forms of art but then you channel it through music which is a beautiful experience for growing up for developing as an artist,” Pérez says.

“There’s a really creative and important exercise there that it’s not only through music that you get inspired to make music. Which makes me remember that question that Wayne [Shorter] posed to me that he said Miles [Davis] posed to him, which is: Don’t you get tired of playing music that sounds like music?”

Shorter will be leading some interdisciplinary learning himself during the Summit. On Tuesday April 27, from 1-3 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium, he will present a screening of “The Fountainhead.” Shorter will lead a discussion after the film about the influence it has had on his music and artistic process. At the Boston Public Library’s Rabb Lecture Hall, the next day, from 1-3 p.m. , Shorter will teach masters class along with Pérez and Patitucci.

First, though, will be Monday’s concert,

“He wants to see a lot of people on stage-so it’s going to be really like a party-and have the kids be a part of this moment to moment without much planning, but really just being there and being yourself and being in tune with the music,” says Pérez. This is a celebration really, and so I’m excited about it.”

Originally Published