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All That Jazz

Pianist-Composer Perez Heads a New Quintet

October 13, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pianist-composer Danilo Perez arrives at Catalina Bar & Grill on Tuesday to kick off a six-night run with a new quintet. Much of the program will consist of his adaptations of pieces from his fascinating new album "Motherland" (Verve). But Perez, who teaches improvisation and jazz studies at the New England Conservatory, hasn't been listening to current jazz lately.

"Not much at all," he says, "and not much Latin jazz, either. Probably because I don't want to be distracted from what I'm doing myself."

But he has been listening to an array of other kinds of music. Here's how he described what was in his CD listening stack last week:

* " 'The Well-Tempered Clavier,' J.S. Bach. The Glenn Gould version. This is my practice, especially when I'm on the road. I really love the way he interacted with all the lines, with different elements going at once. I don't know how he did it, playing against the way everyone thought you were supposed to do it. He's really unbelievable.

* " 'The Lulu Suite' by Alban Berg. Because of the orchestration. There's a lot of harmony, development, motif too, the orchestration is what I'm trying to learn from. So I go through the score and try to figure out what he did and how he did it.

* "Tarif de Haidouks, a Gypsy ensemble. They're bad, you know, really great.

* "Folk music from Panama. Ethnic recordings, very hard to find in this country, some old stuff, some new. A lot of singers from the countryside like Raul Vital, who was on my 'Central Avenue' album.

* "And I always have some Duke Ellington around. Currently, it's the 'Far East Suite.' I like the connections in his music, the way he was able to approach jazz and the blues with a more through-composed approach. What kills me is how he could keep the blues but still take a very classical conception with the orchestration. And whatever he does, however sophisticated it is, there's always a strong connection with the roots."

* The Danilo Perez Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill, Tuesday through Sunday. 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., (323) 466-2210. $15 cover Tuesday through Thursday at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. $17 cover Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m.; $15 cover Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Two-drink minimum.

Brownie Remembered: Jazz is filled with tragic stories, many of them driven by a too-familiar pattern of self-destruction via one or another sort of addiction. Yet one of the most tragic of all--the brief, shooting-star life of trumpeter Clifford Brown--was the product of sheer bad luck.

Brown, who by all reports was free of the dark habits so common among his contemporaries, died in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in June 1956. He was 25 years old.

Although it would be hard to find a single young trumpeter who has not been influenced, directly or indirectly, by Brown's extraordinarily articulate playing, his star has not glowed with much magnitude lately. At least one effort to revitalize his memory takes place Oct. 27-28, a few days after what would have been his 70th birthday (Oct. 20), when the Chuck Johnson-James Smith Quintet presents "A Tribute to Brownie" at Billy Higgins' World Stage. Trumpeter Smith and saxophonist Johnson will perform a program of Brown originals as well as other material associated with the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet.

* "A Tribute to Brownie," with the Chuck Johnson-James Smith Quintet, at the World Stage, 4344 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles. Oct. 27-28, performances at 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Information: (323) 293-2451.

Haunted Jazz: No need to exclude jazz from your Halloween festivities. Nimbus Records (http://www.nimbus.ltd.uk) has come up with an album that can keep the spirits jangling and the feet tapping. "The Haunted House" is a collection of pop, jazz and Swing pieces chosen for their creepy titles and eerie rhythms (with liner notes and family photographs provided by Dr. A. Cula, noted vampire authority).

Among the bloodcurdling titles: Artie Shaw's "Nightmare," Louis Armstrong's "The Skeleton in the Closet" and "You've Got Me Voodoo'd," Fats Waller's "Dry Bones," Gene Krupa's "Dracula," Bud Freeman's "Satanic Blues" and Bing Crosby's "The Headless Horseman." But the most bizarre track of all is probably "With Her Head Tucked Under Her Arm," a musical rendering of the tale of Anne Boleyn, sung by English music hall vocalist Cyril Smith with Rudy Vallee's Connecticut Yankees.

Great Years in Harlem: Always as much a state of mind as a geographical entity, Harlem was never more vividly alive than it was in the period generally described as the Harlem Renaissance, the years between the end of World War I and the mid-'30s. On Nov. 7, Rhino Records will release "Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words From the Harlem Renaissance," a celebration in poetry, sound and rhythm of one of the century's great explosions of pure cultural energy.

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