his first two albums, pianist Oscar Perez focused on his composition. On
Prepare a Place for Me (Myna Records, 2015), he shifts toward
the playing side.
Performing with Perez are Thomson Kneeland, bass; Alvester Garnett,
drums; and on selected tracks, Bruce Williams, alto saxophone.
“Just Everything,” a remake of a song from Perez’s debut album, begins
as a tranquil piece. Kneeland and Garnett figure prominently, even
though Perez is out front most of the way. After an easygoing beginning,
the gears shift and the trio accelerates to a frantic pace. Which makes
sense as the song inspires a visual of three joggers encouraging,
helping one another on a long run, each with a different style. Kneeland
running head over heels, Garnett with short, choppy steps and Perez
“’Round Midnight” pays homage to the Miles Davis interpretation of the
Thelonious Monk classic. Inspired in part by Danilo Perez’s
interpretations of Monk’s music, Oscar and his accompanists deliver just
enough of the original for familiarity. But the trio injects a hint of
flamenco with their stop-time phrases. The high-speed runs give it some
Williams joins the crew for the title song. This gospel-inspired song
features Williams in the lead. It plays more like a ballad set to a
waltz tempo. The piece blends spirituality with beauty and elegance.
Oscar Perez, a protégé of Danilo Perez and Sir Roland Hanna, won second
prize in the 2014 Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition in Florida. He was
raised in Queens, New York, on his father’s Cuban folk music, with piano
lessons and playing in the church band being key parts of his young
life. Perez attended new yorks “LaGaurdia High School for the Performing
Arts,” inspiration for the film and TV series
Fame. He later
graduated from the Jazz Performance program at the University of North
Florida. Stage associations include Wycliffe Gordon, Christian McBride,
Eddie Allen and Dave Stryker. Perez was pianist for vocalist Phoebe Snow
and he has served as music director for St. Edward’s Church in Harlem.