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Live Reviews

Panama Jazz Festival: January 10-15, 2011

By Published: January 24, 2011
Danilo Pérez and his father—bandleader and singer Danilo Pérez Sr.—performed Cuban composer Ricardo Pérez's riveting bolero, "Tu me sabes comprender," together Ricardo Pérez passed away last year. Pérez father and son's interpretation of Benny More's 1963 recording of the song made some Panamanian members of the audience shiver. Emotions filled the theatre. Danilo Pérez Sr. dedicated the song to his wife.

Claudia Acuña and her quartet

After the concert, everybody went to the National Institute of Culture for a huge reception with champagne! The old part of Panama City looked ravishingly beautiful under the moon and it felt like a dream with such heat.

On Thursday and Friday evening, the musicians invited to the festival performed at the ATLAPA Anayansi Theatre. On Thursday, pianist Daniel Garcia performed with his trio including guitarist and singer Jorge Pérez Gonzales and percussionist Alain Pérez. The trio's guest, flamenco dancer Anita Loynaz, mesmerized the audience with her grace and vitality. Despite being pregnant, Claudia Acuña sang admirably, following Daniel Garcias' trio and accompanied by her quartet. Trombonist Conrad Herwig, a former student of Vitin Paz, closed the evening with his intriguing and charming Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock

On Friday evening, the Panamerican Percussion Ensemble led by Omar Diaz and with guest Paoli Mejias, preceded Pérez's performance with his trio's musicians—bassist Ben Street
Ben Street
Ben Street

and drummer Adam Cruz
Adam Cruz
Adam Cruz
, as well as saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa
sax, alto
, Mejías, vocalist Sara Serpa and flautist Matt Marvuglio—all featured on Pérez's last album, Providencia (Mack Avenue Record 2010). Pérez's musicians also performed the following day on the Cathedral Square, la Plaza Catedral, but for a much shorter time. Before each one of his two consecutive shows, Pérez reminded his audience of the importance of water which has been contaminated due to the recent flooding. In December 2010, it had been 100 years since there had been that much rain in Panama. And the canal had to be closed—the last time was in 1989, no less than 21 years ago.

On Saturday afternoon, musicians gave free performances in San Felipe, on the Plaza Catedral. Carlos Ubarte's project Programa Infantil opened the afternoon, and was followed by Carlos Ubarte P. Mauriat's Jazz Quartet. Ricardo Del Fra's Ensemble, the Tonica Fundacion de Mexico, first with Brian Lynch and then on its own, the New England Conservatory Jazz Band, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute and Vitin Paz's quintet (with Lam Zanetti) all filled the Panama City's old neighborhood with colorful andm at timesm surprising tunes. This, and the "Salsa Meets Jazz" evening which followed at the Hotel Panama with Danilo Pérez Sr.'s band, certainly felt like the right way to end an eclectic, original and humanly and musically heated festival.

Photo Credit
Emilie Pons

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