Pianist Perez seems intent on defying expectations, beginning with what may be the most common deception in our culture: a blues that is not a blues. To be sure, “Blues for the Saints” has a deft minor blues as one element in its cascading form-but it goes much further, buoyed by John Patitucci’s limber bass lines. But where Perez may once have been content with dropping the jaw of his listeners, he now strives to raise an eyebrow, to bring them forward in their seats, further into his music. He succeeds more often than not, making Central Avenue worthy of repeated listenings: substance is happening here. It has roots, like most inventions: Perez makes no secret of his sources, the most obvious being Chick Corea and Monk. One even makes a “concrete” appearance in this set: Perez recorded a Panamanian folk singer named Raul Vital, singing a mejorana, a form in the air of rural Panama. He then built the composition he calls “Panama Blues” around that recording, with Patitucci, “Tain” Watts, and percussionists Miguel Anga Diaz and Aquiles Baez. Jeff Ballard plays drums on two tracks, and Luciana Souza contributes fine vocals on two tracks, including a haunting line on Coltrane’s “Impressions.”Originally Published
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