As jazz continues to seek a truly new direction, and in light of the last 15 years' emphasis on global sounds, it's worth asking whether Danilo Perez represents the future of the music. At 27, the Panamanian-born, Berklee-educated pianist has clearly established his abilities both as a jazz pianist of the first rank, in groups led by trumpeter Tom Harrell and vocalist Jon Hendricks, and as a master of the Latin rhythms at the base of his heritage, in Paquito D'Rivera's combo and Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Big Band. And now, on his newly released second album The Journey (Novus), he has undertaken a glorious, panoramic investigation of the place where these musics intersect, and one that bears none of the glibness that marked more than a few such attempts in the past. Perez explains, "I want the music to meld. Even though we're playing Latin rhythms, we're using those rhythms to play the music. I don't want it to be 'Latin jazz,' people playing jazz over a Latin beat. This is taking the music a step forward using the rhythms that are available." Perez first gravitated to the music of Bill Evans, but these days his lively, weighted touch shows other influences, most notably that of Keith Jarrett; on ballads he reaches back to the impressionistic bebop harmonies of Bud Powell. At any tempo his music seems to jump from the keyboard as if it had a life of its own. His dates this week mark his Chicago debut leading his own group. Tuesday, 8 PM, Wednesday, 10:30 PM, and Thursday, 8 and 10:30 PM, Quicksilver, 3855 N. Lincoln; 327-1223.