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Danilo Pérez


About this Artist

As a solo artist and as a collaborator with jazz giants from Dizzy Gillespie to Wayne Shorter, Grammy Award-winning Panamanian pianist-composer Danilo Pérez has been lauded as one of the most creative forces in contemporary music for over three decades. With jazz as the anchoring foundation, Pérez’s global jazz music is a blend of Panamanian roots, Latin American folk music, West African rhythms, European impressionism—promoting music as a borderless and multi-dimensional bridge between all people.

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 and the United Nations Orchestra (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 1993, Pérez turned his focus to his own ensembles and recording projects, releasing several albums as a leader, earning Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations for Central Avenue (1998), Motherland (2000), Across the Crystal Sea (2008), and Providencia (2010, his Mack Avenue Records debut). In 1996, he recorded Panamonk, a tribute to Thelonious Monk on the Impulse label, which DownBeat magazine termed one of the most important piano albums in the history of jazz.

Pérez joined the Wayne Shorter Quartet in 2010 with John Patitucci and Brian Blade. This latest iteration from Shorter has been known as a unique and predominant force in improvisational music both at their historic live performances and on several recordings. In 2018, Blue Note records released their highly anticipated Emanon, which won a Grammy in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental album in 2019.

For several years, Pérez has also been touring with his trio—featuring Ben Street and Adam Cruz—and with Children of the Light, a collaboration with fellow Wayne Shorter Quartet members John Patitucci and Brian Blade. Pérez’s current touring project, the Global Messengers, features musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds, coming together to build community through music.

As a composer, Pérez has been commissioned by the Lincoln Center, Chicago Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, and the Banff Centre, among others.

He currently serves as a UNESCO Artist for Peace, Cultural Ambassador to the Republic of Panama, Founder and Artistic Director of the Panama Jazz Festival, and of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.