How to play a chord that feels like Toni Morrison writing, “I didn’t fall in love with you, I rose in it”? How to play a melody with that feeling? These are the kinds of questions that Danilo Pérez, Avishai Cohen, and Chris Potter were mulling over in the leadup to the debut performance of their new quintet at the Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium on Wednesday night (Oct. 10). With Larry Grenadier on bass and Nate Smith on drums, the group aims at musically reacting to the current moment’s social politics, to take the energy in the air and turn it into a sound.
The latest cultural barometric readings taken by Pérez, Cohen, and Potter caused them to turn away from standards and more prosaic compositional inspirations. They instead chose to “be inspired by women,” as Pérez told the sold-out theater: specifically, great female wordsmiths of love, despair, and doubt like Maya Angelou and Israel’s Zelda (full name Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky), contemporary literary star Jesamyn Ward, and energy/tech activist Sivan Ya’ari.