Day two of the annual Panama Jazz Festival was highlighted by a gala gathering in Panama City’s principal theater, the cavernous Teatro Anayansi. The stage was filled to capacity by The Global Jazz Big Band, an ensemble featuring musicians from many nations under the direction of Bill Dobbins, the noted arranger who is currently the professor of jazz studies at the Eastman School of Music. The group, which included festival director and pianist Danilo Perez’s alto-playing wife Patricia Zarate, was joined by Perez and his Children of the Light trio — bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. The arrangements featured pianist Perez’s compositions, including a work from his acclaimed album Across the Crystal Sea, which was arranged by Claus Ogerman. The piece served as a tribute the late German orchestrator, who passed away in March, 2016 after a stellar career of writing orchestrations for such artists as George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Antonio Carlos Jobim, among many others.
Bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding’s sparkling performance capped the evening. She was joined in a trio format by Perez and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Spaulding demonstrated her vocal range on the standard “Prelude To A Kiss,” offered as a tribute to the late Panamanian vocalist Violeta Green, to whom the festival is paying tribute.
Activities continue today with performances by a group from Chile, Panamanian pianist Omar Diaz and his group, and a quartet led by bassist John Patitucci. For fans who want to stay out late, Danilo Perez’s Jazz Club, located in the city’s historic colonial sector, offers live jazz well into the night.