“Music can change the world because music can change people.” — U2’s Bono
Danilo Perez agrees.
“I don’t think there is any doubt about what music can do,” said Saturday’s Iowa City Jazz Festival headliner by phone from his Boston home. “It can change people’s lives in the most positive way and it can unite diverse groups of people. Songs are that powerful.”
The earnest musician/social activist is working on a project with his aptly named group, The Global Messengers. Their forthcoming album will address cultural immigration, and the message is that the best diplomatic approach is through music.
“You look around the world or even just in this country and you see we need to connect and understand each other,” Perez said. “Music bridges the gap. The greatest lesson I learned from the incomparable (trumpeter) Dizzy Gillespie is that music should be used as a diplomatic tool for humanity.”
Perez, 52, an accomplished pianist and composer, will deliver positive, upbeat material swirling in jazz, Latin American folk and world sounds when he and bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz hit the Main Stage on the Pentacrest at 8 p.m. Saturday (7/6). Special guest is jazz sax player Chris Potter.
“We know what to do since we have been doing this for years (since 2003),” Perez said. “We go out there to have fun and take the audience to different places. For the show in Iowa City, we’re going to mix things up. I want to play some Stevie Wonder. We’re going to play one of my favorite songs from him, which is ‘Overjoyed.’ It’s going to be our take on it.
“We’re also going to play some original material. We’re going to play some standards and maybe even do a Chris Potter song. We’re thrilled Chris is going to be with us, since he’s such a powerhouse. When we’re all performing together we put a fire under the music. We’re going to keep passing the ball around to see what happens live.”
Perez is looking forward to the playing his first summer festival date, since it allows him to step back from the three projects he’s been focusing on for months.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I have a couple of different plates in the air,” Perez said. “I’m working on group and duo projects. The Global Messengers will be going into the studio at the end of the year, and our album will be out next year. I’ll get to that but for now it’s about enjoying the summer by playing out in front of those who love music.
Perez teaches a class at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
“I want to give something back since I learned so much from so many great musicians,” he said.
Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Haynes and Cassandra Wilson are some of the venerable musicians Perez has collaborated with over his 30-year career.
“What I learned from Wynton was about commitment and desire to pass this along to the next generation,” Perez said. “We want the music and the arts to live on. I’m doing all I can to accomplish that by playing, teaching or talking about the transformative power of music. I absolutely believe that music makes a difference. Music leaves you with an indelible impression.”
Iowa City has made an impression on Perez.
“I’ve played Iowa City a number of times over the years, and what stands out to me is that it is such an artistic community. The people of Iowa City are so open to different styles of music. People should check out Iowa City. It’s a cool place.”