The 14th edition of the annual Panama Jazz Festival launched the five day event with a focus on youth music education — a strong focus of the festival and the Danilo Perez Foundation. Student musicians entertained an opening ceremony assembly of local dignitaries with their reading of the standard “C Jam Blues.” Perez, the noted Panamanian jazz pianist and creator of the festival, and his wife, educator and musician Patricia Zarate, have initiated programs to educate hundreds of Panamanian youth in the basics of music and have provided financial assistance to dozens who have studied at Boston’s Berklee College and other institutions in the U.S. and Panama.
The festival offers dozens of educational clinics on a wide range of topics, from improvisation to song writing and folkloric rhythms. Opening day concerts included performances by Colombian singer Naty Hernandez and a six-member ensemble of Panamanian musicians and and local guitarist and vocalist Karla Lamboglia and her group. The opening evening concert sets featured the quartet of harmonica player Roni Eytan from Israel plus the duo of vocalist Dianne Reeves and guitarist Romero Lubambo. Reeves received multiple standing ovations and welcomed pianist Perez to the stage to accompany her — their first-ever opportunity to perform together. Today, Perez’s trio and Esperanza Spalding headline a gala event at Panama City’s Anayansi Theater.