Faculty Pianist Danilo Perez Releases New Disc

By 
Rob Hayes
January 15, 2008
Danilo Perez leads his trio in an improvisation based on a Panamanian folk tune at Toast of the Nation's first stop, Berklee College of Music's David Friend Recital Hall, produced by Boston's WGBH-FM.
Danilo Perez conducts his 23-piece big band in The Panama Suite, the centerpiece of the WGBH and Berklee College of Music-produced Toast of the Nation opening concert.
Danilo Perez (left) leads Panamanian students Jahaziel Arrocha (a Berklee Presidential Scholar) and 11-year-old percussion sensation Milagros Blades in an improvisation on a Panamanian folk tune at Berklee.
Photo by Henry Hayes
Photo by Henry Hayes
Photo by Henry Hayes

The Panama Suite, a sprawling, earthy work for big band by Grammy-winning pianist and composer Danilo Perez, has just been released on the ArtistShare label. Composed in celebration of his native Panama, the new recording will also be available for sale at the Panama Jazz Festival, which Perez founded in 2003. All proceeds of the recording and the festival, which takes place January 21 to 26 in Panama City, go to the Danilo Perez Foundation to provide a wide range of education programs in Panama.

Combining urban sounds and Panamanian folkloric elements in a big band setting, the 15-minute work is divided into three movements: Awakening/El Despertar; The Quest/La Busqueda; and The Celebration/Quiero Amanecer. Ambitious, rousing, and fun, it summons images of the country' s spectacular geography, and pulls the listener into the center of an all-night street party.

The piece received its radio premiere on New Year's Eve as part of a wild, live performance on NPR's Toast of the Nation international radio broadcast. The broadcast can be heard on the new NPR Music site. It will also be broadcast throughout Latin America later this month on the Voice of America.

Danilo Perez, Panamanian-born jazz pianist/composer, is both a Grammy winner and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. A 1988 Berklee graduate in jazz composition, Perez has led his own bands to worldwide critical and popular acclaim while collaborating with some of the greatest musicians of our time, including Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes, Tito Puente, and Steve Lacy, to name a few.

With Berklee's support, Perez selected a big band composed of Berklee and New England Conservatory students and faculty to record this new piece, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Panama Jazz Festival.

All proceeds from The Panama Suite CD support the Danilo Perez Foundation, which funds Perez's music education projects for youth in Panama-programs that have already made it possible for top Panamanian youngsters to attend Berklee. The Suite is available from ArtistShare as either a CD or an MP3 download.

The Panama Suite was composed and directed by Danilo Perez, and recorded and mixed at Berklee College of Music by Rob Jaczko, chair of the college's Music Production and Engineering department. Billy Herron is the producer, and Berklee College of Music is the executive producer.

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