Cambridge — Danilo Pérez rose from the piano midway through the performance of “Children of the Light,” presented at Sanders Theatre Friday by the Celebrity Series of Boston, to playfully introduce his trio mates John Patitucci (“the godfather of the bass”) and drummer Brian Blade. He then shifted gears and made a somber announcement.
“Sometimes you wonder why we behave that way,” he said, alluding to the week’s terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali, the latter having taken place that day. Pérez said they were dedicating the next song, Blade’s “Within Everything,” to all the victims. The piece proved to be a highlight of the performance, as it is on the trio’s album, also named, like the trio, “Children of the Light” — slow, meditative, deceptively simple, with an exquisite folky blues groove to it that calls to mind Keith Jarrett . . . and aptly elegiac.
It was also the only tune Pérez announced from the stage, in a set otherwise split among offerings from the trio’s album (“Looking for Light,” “Sunburn and Mosquito,” the title track), work from Pérez’s own back catalog (“Reflections on the South Sea,” “Suite for the Americas”), and an encore of the beloved bolero “Bésame Mucho.” (“I’ve been thinking about light a lot,” Pérez said after the show, as he and opening artist Joey Alexander greeted fans at separate merchandise tables. “Light and love,” he said.)
On these the trio was freer and more abstract, as they were renowned for more than a decade in Wayne Shorter’s stellar quartet. That group played at Symphony Hall two years ago, when Shorter, 80, stuck to shaman-like bursts of sax sorcery and left the trio most of the workload. The trio debuted as a separate unit at New York’s Blue Note in summer 2014, with Shorter’s blessing (its name is a spin on his classic “Children of the Night”). Their album was released in September.
Patitucci took several strong bass solos, the best on “Within Everything,” switched to a six-string electric for two pieces, and anchored things through Blade’s ceaselessly swirling drum wizardry, which ranged fluidly from chamber-like subtlety to booming climactic crashes. Pérez’s richest contribution was his magical harmonies, some played with balled fists.
Alexander, the Indonesian piano prodigy who opened, has turned 12 since appearing on the front page of The New York Times in May. His set of an original and three standards was impressive, but you could sometimes sense the wheels grinding as he improvised. The boy, paradoxically, has yet to grow into the playfulness his elders exhibited in their freewheeling set.
Children of the Light
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, FridayBill Beuttler can be reached at bill@