Recommended: Danilo Perez – “Panama 500”


Danilo Perez - "Panama 500"On his newest release, pianist Danilo Perez views the map of his native country literally, metaphorically and conceptually.  Panama 500 is as much about the history of the republic of Panama as it is the history of its music, and just as the details of a map change in reaction to the events that shape it, so do the album’s music expressions from track to track.  Perez incorporates the indigenous musics of Panama as well as those traceable to the countries who sent explorers into Panama.  It’s where the chanting of Panama’s indigenous natives share the same space on the map as the European, African and Asian musics that trace connections to the land.  Bolstering this effect is the inclusion of percussionists from Panama, Brazil and Cuba.

And it’s not just about historical and geographical markers.  Perez incorporates aspects of cinematic imagery into the compositions.  The contemplative “Reflections on the South Sea” is the embodiment of the ever-present ocean on Panama’s shores and its perspective of the country’s changes over the span of history.  And on “Rediscovery of the South Sea,” Perez includes narrative of Guna Indians as witness to Spanish explorers as well as some free improvisation to represent the frantic explorers losing their way in the forest.

And while mapping out the compositions is a big part of this album’s construction, the three part “Canal Suite,” commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the Panama Canal is the result of on-the-spot improvisation.  And the straight-ahead “Gratitude” gives the sense of swing even as it pulses in a cadence typified by unexpected, tiny bursts of rhythm.

Perhaps most impressive is that Perez tackled the concept of a sprawling epic and molded it into a coherent, fluid work that neatly boils down the expansive scope into concise, flawless images.

A serious work possessing a serious beauty.

Your album personnel:  Danilo Pérez (piano), John Patitucci (electric & acoustic basses), Ben Street (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Adam Cruz (drums), Alex Hargreaves (violin), Sachi Patitucci (cello), Román Díaz (percussion), Rogério Boccato (percussion), Milagros Blades (ripcador, caja, pujador), Ricaurte Villareal (caja, güiro), José Angel Colman (Guna language vocals), Eulogio Olaideginia Benítez (gala bissu, gala ildi), and José Antonio Hayans (gammu burwi).

Released on Mack Avenue Records.

Jazz from the Boston scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD/MP3