Danilo Perez seems to have divined the likely course of jazz in the next century, as the boundaries between Americas continue to fade. Still in his 20s, the pianist has established himself not only as one of the sterling jazz musicians of his generation, accepting the torch from Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, but also as a master of Afro-Caribbean music. He could abandon one idiom for the other and still have a long, fruitful career, but his real strength is his hybridization of the two, which completely ignores the glib cliches that pepper most Latin jazz. Perez has recorded three albums; two are noteworthy but he has yet to record a perfect one. His best, The Journey (1994), flirted with satori but remained too often earthbound, while Panamonk (1996) never fully justified its beguiling premise--that Thelonious Monk's melodies inherently contain Latin rhythms. But Perez has played some perfect sets. In previous Chicago appearances, he has consistently left listeners marveling at his rhythm magicianship, his Technicolor technique, and his ability to blend an hour's worth of music into a captivating single statement. He is an absolutely charismatic communicator, creating impromptu pieces of musical theater by dancing along the corpus callosum that connects mainstream jazz and his own Afro-Caribbean roots. Perez's next album, due this fall, should further explore these themes--he has reportedly engaged in a bit of ethnomusicology, heading into the backwaters of his native Panama to bring back folk-music recordings--and with any luck we'll get a preview this weekend. His trio includes the lithe but driving bass of John Benitez and newcomer Antonio Sanchez on drums. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.