Pianist, composer, educator and social activist, Danilo Pérez is among the most influential and dynamic musicians of our time.
Born in Panama in 1965, Pérez started his musical studies when he was three years old with his father, a bandleader and singer. By age 10, he was studying the European classical piano repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in electronics in Panama, he studied jazz composition at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. While still a student, he performed with Jon Hendricks, Terence Blanchard, Slide Hampton, Claudio Roditi and Paquito D’Rivera. Quickly established as a young master, he soon toured and/or recorded with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra from 1989-1992, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Lacy , Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Tito Puente, Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Gary Burton,and Roy Haynes. In 2000, Danilo joined Wayne Shorter to form Shorter’s great quartet with John Patitucci and Brian Blade.
In 1993, Pérez turned his focus to his own ensembles and recording projects, releasing eight albums as a leader, earning Grammy® and Latin Grammy® nominations for Central Avenue (1989), Motherland (2000), and Across The Crystal Sea (2008). In 1996 he was signed by producer Tommy Lipuma to join the Impulse label and recorded Panamonk, a tribute to Thelonious Monk which according to DownBeat magazine is one of the most important jazz piano albums in the history. Additionally, Pérez released Providencia, his debut for Mack Avenue Records, in August of 2010. The album was nominated for a 2011 Grammy® Award in the category of “Best Instrumental Jazz Album.” As a composer he has been commissioned by The Lincoln Center, Chicago Jazz Festival and Imani Winds Quintet among others. Last year Carnegie Hall commissioned him to write an octet for members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. In May 2014 he was commissioned by The Banff Centre to write a piano quintet for the Cecilia String Quartet titled Camino de Cruces and he also composed the music for the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
Cultural Ambassador to the Republic of Panama, Pérez has received a variety of awards for his musical achievements, activism and social work efforts. He currently serves as UNESCO Artist for Peace, Founder and Artistic Director of the Panama Jazz Festival, and Artistic Director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute in Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
Peréz’ latest album, Panama 500 (Mack Avenue Records) (an exploration of the evolution of Latin American musical traditions) was released on February 4, 2014. Peréz tours tirelessly in a trio with Ben Street and Adam Cruz, with his quintet presenting Panama 500, and with his musical soul mates, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. That trio comes together between tours with the historic Wayne Shorter Quartet to embrace the message of their guru with the name Children of the Light.