News Feature

Originally published in Compass, July 24, 2014
Deer Isle Jazz Festival to feature all-star piano summit

Opera House Arts celebrates the 14th edition of its annual Deer Isle Jazz Festival at the Stonington Opera House Thursday, July 31, through Saturday, August 2. This year’s event amounts to a jazz-piano summit, featuring pianists Henry Butler of New Orleans and Panamanian Danilo Pérez.

Festival headliner Henry Butler (Saturday, August 2, 7 p.m.) extends a long line of distinctive piano virtuosos born and raised in New Orleans. Danilo Pérez (Friday, August 1, 7 p.m.) hails from Panama.

Butler’s 1986 debut recording featured stellar modern-jazz players: bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Billy Higgins and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. By the late ‘90s, he was immersed in Delta blues, notably in collaboration with guitarist and singer Corey Harris. Pérez is a founding member of the current quartet led by saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Yet his own work as a composer and bandleader has earned Grammy Award nominations and elevated the sound and course of modern jazz. His 1996 album, “PanaMonk,” which set Thelonious Monk’s music to various Afro-Latin beats, is an enduring classic.

On Thursday, July 31, the festival opens with a presentation of an exclusive screening of Arrows Into Infinity, a film by Dorothy Darr and Jeffery Morse about saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s life and art. The film tells a deeply personal story that spans much of modern jazz’s eras, intersects with everything from rural blues to Jimi Hendrix, and resonates with social and political upheavals.

Each year, one musician serves as visiting musician for a two-week residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts; bassist Ben Street, who plays in Pérez’s, fills that role this year.

Maine musicians and student groups will be showcased as well. Opening for Pérez on Friday night is the Emilia Dahlin Quartet. Saturday night’s opening act features the 7-Up Jazz Combo of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill.

Tickets for the festival may be obtained online at or by calling or visiting Opera House Arts’ box office.