(NewsroomPanama) Panama’s battered image world will get a big boost this week as as the 8th Jazz Panama Festival, brain child and inspiration of renowned Jazz artist Danilo Perez gets into its stride.
The turn of the year has not been kind to the country, with WikiLeaks revelations of presidential dealings with the American embassy, scandals in the Attorney General’s office, floods, evacuations, 34 days of water shortages,and an impending gag law aimed at local media. To round off the gloomy news there was the forecast that the rains will extend until March.
But while it rained across the city, the official opening ceremony of the Festival at the ATLAPA Convention Center on Monday, was light and harmonious.
The opening speeches were followed by the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon by Perez, who has been nominated for the best instrumental Jazz album at the 2011 Grammy awards.
The formalities were closed off with the first public musical rendering of the festival from The Grupo Ensemble Descubriendo Talento Daniel Perez, ( Discovering Talents of the Danilo Perez Foundation) directed by Carlos Ubarte. They were unbelievably young (from 6-12). Unbelievably talented. A perfect start to a promising week.
Unbelievably young In my book, if Panama had the equivalent of Britain’s knighthoods Danilo would be top of the list, adding to his already impressive bundle of awards.
He is a Fulbright Scholar, a UNICEF goodwill Ambassador and a Cultural Ambassador of Panama. But above all he is a jazz musician and educator. The festival is not only to provide entertainment but to provide musical education, and opportunities through private classes, clinics, and auditions leading to scholarships.
This year the Festival is dedicated to another Panamanian great , Vitin Paz (Victor Nicanor Paz), trumpeter, teacher and musical director, who has performed with artists like Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and Celia Cruz.
Victor Paz Vitín
The popularity of the festival has grown since he founded it in 2003, and by 2009 attracted over 22,000 people to official festival activities plus others attracted to side events in clubs and restaurants. The number is expected to grow this year, with international and local artists performing daily at ATLAPA and nightly at the Panama Hotel.
The starred events of the week start with the Festival Gala Night on Wednesday, January 12, at the National Theater in Casco Viejo with star billings going to the Paris Conservatory Ensemble conducted by Ricardo Del Fro, the Harlem String Quartet and Vitin Paz and his Orchestra and special guests. On Thursday and Friday , the main attractions move to the Anayansi Theater at ATLAPA, with the Thursday concert by The Spanish Tinge, The Daniel Garcia Trio, the Claudio Acuna Quartet, and world famed trombonist Conrad Herwig with the Latin Side of Herbie Hancock .
Friday’s concert stars the Global Jazz Summit, of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute with the Panamerican Percussion Ensemble, Danilo Perez Providencia with Ben Street, Adam Cruz, Rudresh Mahantappa, Paoli Mejias, Sera Serpa and Matt Marvuglio.
Tickets for all three events are available from Blockbuster.
Each night of the week there will be jazz and jam sessions at the Hotel Panama. On Monday (January 10-11) it kicks off at 10 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday at 11 p.m. Admission for the first four nights is only $5,
(students with ID $2). On Saturday for the grand finale event when Salsa Meets Jazz the price climbs to $20 for a benefit concert in aid of the Danilo Perez Foundation to help young Panamanians get a start in the musical world. In the last seven years the Foundation has created scholarships worth millions of dollars for young musicans years.
The biggest turnout of the week will inevitably be at Cathedral Plaza , in Casco Viejo where on Saturday, from 12.30-9 p.m. there will be performances from international and local performers, and it’s free. Transport from Multicentro is also free, courtesy of the Hard Rock Café. It’s probably the best way of getting there, unless you are ready for the walk from Avenida Balboa.
It is one of the social events of the year, where many settle in for a eight and a half hours of class entertainment and where you are sure to meet someone you know.
The only jarring note last year was the appearance on the stage of Panama’s mayor, Bosco Vallarino and he got the raspberry from the crowd. He has written a foreword to the program of this year’s events, and hopefully his advisors will suggest he leaves it at that and stays out of the limelight this time around.