It was a rare sighting of the Danilo Pérez trio at Ronnie Scott’s last night, a whistle stop appearance ahead of a gig in Paris at the Duc des Lombards club tonight. These days it’s easy to think of the US-based Panamanian in terms of the Wayne Shorter Quartet primarily and that’s not surprising as the quartet has had such an impact on jazz over the last 10 years. Pérez’s trio has a very different approach but like Shorter it’s a showcase for the imagination of a composer at work. Bassist Ben Street (“the Godfather,” as Pérez jokingly dubbed him in the second set) has a Scott LaFaro scrabbling way about him and bunches his fingers almost like a contortionist across the bass producing some exquisite chordal ideas, sounding at times loosely coiled to give the ex-Paul Motian sideman even more syncopating fire power. Drummer Adam Cruz, looking a little like a younger Barack Obama, could turn up the power but was able to anticipate and develop soloing lines when Pérez wanted to stretch out. Performing some new music, dedicated to his daughter, the set highlight was easily Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ from the 1985 In Square Circle album, although Pérez did a fun mischievous unfolding version of ‘Besame Mucho’ late on which drew smiles. Pérez is a natural educator and as artistic director of the Berklee Global Institute in Boston has been bringing on top new talent from around the world. His communication in music outside the halls of academe was easily demonstrated as he got the audience to sing a note, harmonise, adapt, and then with the trio improvise on the chords created, plucking music from the air. Overall an evening heavy on ballad-type songs, it perhaps needed a bit more momentum at times, but the delights more than compensated. Pérez said a few times he’d like to take the audience with him on the train to Paris: “Nine o’clock at the station!”

Stephen Graham