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Danilo Perez: Motherland

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For the better part of his career, Dizzy Gillespie talked about his desire to help unify the music of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. One of his proteges, Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Perez, worked in Dizzy’s United Nations Orchestra; in his solo career he has helped to carry on Dizzy’s dream. This latest CD is Perez’s most ambitious project to date. It features an international cast interpreting his challenging, original music, fusing elements of jazz, folkloric and dance music.

The musical line-up includes three singers who are about to emerge as stars in their own right. Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza has no problem navigating the complex, odd-meter lines Perez has written for her. She uses her voice like an instrument on the tricky, wordless vocals of “Suite for Americas Pt. 1,” often in unison with violinist Regina Carter. Another vocalist who shows that singing in tune never goes out of style is Chilean-born Claudia Acuna, who wraps her beautiful alto around “Song to the Land.” Cameroonian bass guitarist Richard Bona sings with out-on-a-limb audacity on “Pan Africa” and “Prayer.” The latter is also notable for some fascinating background vocal parts.

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