Panama 500

Panama 500

Pianist Danilo Perez has never been shy about celebrating his homeland. Here, Panama's third most famous expat (after Mariano Rivera and Rubén Blades) commemorates Vasco Nunez de Balboa’s “discovery” of the Pacific Ocean in 1513—this set in motion the country’s role as a global crossroads for commerce and culture, connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific as well as the Americas. Perez uses jazz as a bonding agent but makes far-flung cultural connections with rhythms and structures of Western classical music, African music, and Latin percussion showing up alongside indigenous guna traditions (hand percussion, chanting, and birdcalls). While not particularly long, the “Canal Suite” is the album's centerpiece; the first part (“Land of Hope”) is a nice classical solo piece from Perez, the second (“Premonition in Rhythm”) is a tribal drum and abstract piano-and-violin piece, and the third (“Melting Pot") adds a modern clave. Those who want to hear the jazz emphasized will dig the Wayne Shorter–esque “The Expedition” and the contemplative “Panama Viejo.” Listeners will travel plenty here, but no passport is needed.

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