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Oscar Perez (piano) – Prepare A Place For Me – Myna

Oscar Perez (piano) – Prepare A Place For Me – Myna MR-0001 57:47 ****:

(Oscar Perez – piano; Thomson Kneeland – bass; Alvester Garnett – drums; Bruce Williams – alto saxophone on tracks 3-4, 7-9)

In a field that is crowded with bristling enthusiastic pianists, Oscar Perez, a protégé of Danilo Perez (no relation) and Sir Roland Hanna, is looking to make his mark. In this release called Prepare A Place For Me, Perez and his cohorts disclose themselves as dependable expressive collaborators.

In this session of nine tracks, seven are originals by Perez and on five of them, the trio is joined by alto saxophonist Bruce Williams. The two covers offered could not be more different. Firstly there is the Thelonious Monk classic “‘Round Midnight”,  contrasted with Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness Of You”.

The album leads off with “Just Everything” as a trio offering in an oblique up-tempo bolero which is intentionally plucky, with bassist Kneeland proficiently responsive in his solo effort, as well as drummer Garnett offering some tasty breaks. The aforementioned “Round Midnight” makes an interesting deviation from its standard time signature, with a Latin vibe that shows the composition in a whole new light. Drummer Garnett works his drum kit to perfection as he lays the rhythmic foundation for Perez to augment his attack. As for the Carmichael piece, Perez gives the ballad a passionately meditative interpretation, supported by some intricate brushwork from Garnett.

When alto saxophonist Bruce Williams joins the conversation starting with “Heading Over”, the dynamic of the group changes. They pick up a boppish groove that loosens the creative process, which they adopt with an unforced consistency. On the title track “Prepare A Place For Me”, Williams’ expressive alto takes the lead, followed by Perez who demonstrates refined control. Bassist Kneeland and drummer Garnett fill the gaps, indicating that they are unflappable partners. The final track is “Song For Ofelia” which starts with drummer Garnett using mallets on the tom-toms and cymbals, as alto saxophonist Williams sets the theme. Perez says he wrote the composition for his grandmother who was the matriarch of the family. Meant to convey strength and endurance, the number evokes these qualities through the rubato nature of the arrangement.

A thoughtful yet affable interpretation of modern jazz.

TrackList: Just Everything; ‘Round Midnight; Headin’ Over; Snake Charm; Message To Monterey; The Nearness Of You; Prepare A Place For Me; Mushroom City; Song For Ofelia

—Pierre Giroux

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