Pianist Danilo Perez hails from Panama, a place where two continents meet naturally and two oceans meet because of human effort.
And for more than two decades, Perez’s music has been a crossroads where many styles meet.
Perez, who’s bringing his Panama 500 band to the Folly Theater on Saturday, is incredibly fluent in the jazz vocabulary. But that isn’t enough for his creative mind. He’s busy erasing boundaries, in his own music and in his other high-profile gig, as a partner in the long-running Wayne Shorter Quartet.
The Panama 500 project springs from all the cultural streams of that land — influences from Spain and Africa as well as the native influences. It’s some of the most ambitious music of Perez’s career, but just the kind of thing he’s perfectly equipped to bring off.
Perez makes unremittingly modern music, but he’s not one of those jazzfolk who seem indifferent to actually communicating with an audience. (Yours truly has watched him quickly and easily convince a crowd to clap along in 7/4 time.) There’s nothing obtuse or pretentious about his music. It’s just a new, highly personal spin on the values that have always mattered in jazz.
Perez’s show is at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Folly, 300 W. 12th St. Tickets are $18 to $50; call 816-474-4444 or check follytheater.org. He’ll participate in a question-and-answer session for ticketholders at 7 p.m.
One more for Frank
One of the top male jazz singers in the field, Kurt Elling, has been busy exploring the legacy of Frank Sinatra — the songs, the swagger, and the restless spirit behind them.
Elling doesn’t have to be doing this. He’s built a successful career on a wide repertory, songs from all over the map that he has deeply re-imagined. Still, it’s inevitable that his musical path and Sinatra’s would cross at some point.
“Elling Swings Sinatra” comes to the Lied Center on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $11 to $35. Call 785-864-2787 or check lied.ku.edu.
▪ The Blue Room has a nice habit of bringing some of Bobby Watson’s New York friends to town and turning them loose together on the stage for an evening. It’s on again at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, with Watson and imaginative pianist and composer Donald Brown. Like Watson, Brown was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (but a few years later). Also playing will be bassist Ray Drummond, one of the go-to guys for the best musicians on the scene, and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, a superb jazz player who spent 15 years in the “Tonight Show” band. It’s at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St.; tickets are $25. Call 816-474-6262 or visit americanjazzmuseum.org.
▪ Bands from colleges, high schools and middle schools all around the region (and as far away as Manitoba) will show what they’re made of in this week’s Kansas City Jazz Summit at Kansas City Kansas Community College. You’re invited to drop in on the performances, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the college’s Performing Arts Center. Thursday is the Basically Basie competition, with a concert for the award winners at 5 p.m.
▪ Other events at the Blue Room include a show keyed to the “Jazz Then and Now” exhibit at the American Jazz Museum. Trumpeter Hermon Mehari is the bandleader for this one, at 7 p.m. Monday; the exhibit itself, in the museum’s Changing Gallery, closes April 30. Tenor saxophonist Steven Lambert’s quartet plays the Blue Room at 7 p.m. Thursday, and the Jazz Disciples are joined by singer Lisa Henry at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
▪ Take Five Coffee + Bar, at 6601 W. 135th St., Suite A-21 in Overland Park (behind Von Maur), has Balinese music from Gamelan Genta Kasturi at 4 p.m. Sunday; new jazz from the Marcus Lewis Big Band at 7 p.m. Thursday; and vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s quartet at 8 p.m. Friday.
▪ The next live performance/recording session for the “12th Street Jump” radio series features harmonica virtuoso Randy Weinstein. If you haven’t heard him, rest assured he’ll make a difference in the way you think about the harmonica. In this show, he’s helping pay tribute to the music of Toots Thielemans. It’s at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway; it’s followed by a set with Weinstein and bassist-vocalist Bryan Hicks at 9:30 p.m.
▪ The Broadway Jazz Club also has pianist Roger Wilder at 7 p.m. Thursday; the group A La Mode at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by pianist and singer Alyssa Murray with Hicks at 10:30 p.m.; and singer Megan Birdsall at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by keyboardist Max Groove at 10:30 p.m.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., celebrates the release of a new CD by one of the regular house bands, organist Ken Lovern’s OJT. The party for the disc “New Standards for the Green Lady” is at 9 p.m. Wednesday, and they’re back at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Other highlights on the schedule include one more chance to see drummer Steve Houghton’s great trio with guitarist Danny Embrey and bassist Bob Bowman, at 6 p.m. Sunday; the Foundation 627 Big Band at 8:30 p.m. Sunday; Philip Wakefield’s trio is at 9 p.m. Monday; percussionist John Kizilarmut’s trio at 9 p.m. Tuesday; guitarist Adam Schlozman’s trio at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; sax man Brett Jackson’s group at 9 p.m. Thursday; singer Molly Hammer at 8:30 p.m. Friday, followed by organist Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; and guitarist Myles Gorham’s trio at 6 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The First Lutheran Church of Kansas City, 6400 State Line Road in Mission Hills, is featuring jazz on a benefit for its music program (which includes regular jazz services). The 6 p.m. show on Sunday at the church includes singers Millie Edwards and Lori Tucker, pianist Tim Whitmer, guitarist Tom DeMasters and drummer Ray DeMarchi.
▪ Reed man James Isaac leads the next show on the Jazz Underground concert series at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Westport CoffeeHouse Theatre, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave.