WBGO Radar

Oscar Perez: Prepare a Place for Me

Oscar Perez Prepare a Place for Me

Pianist Oscar Perez was raised in Queens on his father's Cuban folk music. Spending time in the church band, he would attend LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, study Jazz Performance at the University of North Florida, study with Danilo Perez at the New England Conservatory of Music and receive his Master's Degree at Queens College under the watchful eyes and ears of Sir Roland Hanna. With this pedigree, Oscar would go on to share stages with George Russell, Curtis Fuller, Christian McBride, Steve Turre, Dave Stryker and Phoebe Snow. Perez's debut recording, "Nuevo Comienzo", featured a quintet with guests Wycliffe Gordon and guitarist Peter Bernstein. His second recording, "Afropean Affair", was an extended piece for septet, featuring tenor saxophonist Stacey Dillard and vocalist Charnee Wade.

Oscar Perez's new recording, "Prepare A Place For Me" features the pianist in a grooving foursome, alongside bassist Thomson Kneeland, saxophonist Bruce Williams and drummer Alvester Garnett.

A pianist of impeccable technique, Perez says, "I've always considered myself a composer as much as a player." Of the nine tunes on this new recording, seven are originals. "Just Everything" by the pianist is a moving piece where you can hear how Perez listens to drummer Garnett in this tasty trio number, with Oscar's lines providing enough fuel for a nice ride. His latin-tinged expression of "Round Midnight" nods back to his formative years with Danilo Perez, also leaning into Miles Davis' arrangement of this jazz evergreen.

Inspired by Cedar Walton's work with Art Blakey, "Headin' Over" has Williams alto sax in a nice 4/4 groove with the trio.

"Snake Charm" slithers through an opening that has the quartet in full tilt in this reptile dance they obviously enjoyed, as Williams coaxes the snake from the basket.

"Message To Monterey", an original in 3/4 time shows off the synergy of the trio.

Inspired by the trio recordings of pianists Hank Jones and Fred Hersch, Perez chose the Hoagy Carmichael gem "The Nearness Of You" to share his gorgeous relaxed tribute.

The title track has the foursome playing waltzfully through the peaks and valleys that give the tune it's mood of the search.

"Mushroom City", inspired by Charlie Banacos, described as a "zen master" of improvisation, takes modern jazz techniques and applies them to a Brazilian baiao groove. The shimmering piano line of Perez find him in a worldly exchange with saxist Williams, bassist Kneeland and drummer Garnett.

"Song For Ofelia", written for his grandmother, the matriarch of the entire family, shows the same strength as the quartet moves though this beautiful closer. As Oscar Perez says of his group approach, "I want the vibe to be as communal as can be, because I believe that's where jazz improvisation thrives."

"Prepare A Place For Me comes out October 13th. Oscar Perez celebrates his new recording October 26 at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York

  - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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