Panamanian-born pianist Danilo Pérez's 2014 album, Panama 500, is an expansive effort that showcases his trio as they delve deep into the music and folkloric traditions of Pérez's homeland. Pérez has long investigated the music of Latin America, seeking to combine the rhythms and melodies he grew up with and the expansive harmonies of contemporary jazz. In that sense, Panama 500 has much in common with the pianist/composer's 2010 album, Providencia. As with that release, Panama 500 finds Pérez delivering a set of articulately structured compositions that combine his love of jazz, classical, and Latin American folk music. There is even a three-part "Canal Suite" positioned at the center of the album that crosses the lines between folk music, modern creative improvisatory jazz, and orchestrated classical music. Joining Pérez here is his longtime working trio featuring bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz. Also backing Pérez on various tracks are his fellow Wayne Shorter Quartet bandmates, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. Ultimately, Panama 500 is an ambitious work that showcases all of Pérez's immense technical skills, jazz knowledge, and deep, abiding love of his Latin American roots.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar