For Grammy-winning pianist and composer Danilo Pérez, jazz isn’t so much a form of music as it is a way of life. Born and raised in Panama, Pérez began studying music at the age of three with his father, who worked as a singer and bandleader. He went on to study at the Berklee College of Music, and through the years, has performed with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter to Roy Haynes and Wynton Marsalis. He has also recorded 14 albums as a bandleader, showcasing a modern, Pan-American sound that often weaves Panamanian rhythms with African melodies.
But in addition to his performing and recording work, Pérez has built a legacy as a “music humanitarian,” as one writer described him. He has served as a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF, and was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace last November. In 2005, he founded the Panama-based Danilo Pérez Foundation, which uses music education to help children reach their full potential. He is also the artistic director for both the Panama Jazz Festival and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), the latter of which explores the social impact of music and the ways in which creativity intersects with nature. We recently spoke with Pérez about his career, and talked about the relationship that jazz shares with culture, identity, and the natural environment. Below is Pérez in his own words.
For more on this story, visit: Talking Jazz with Danilo Pérez | NEA.