A collaborative effort between the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music in Boston, the three-part Panama Suite is issued as a stand-alone single CD (clocking in at a sum total of just under 15 minutes) on the musician owned and operated Artist Share label. The project was commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago and composed by Danilo Perez, who instructs at both institutions. He has crafted these charts in a tribute to his native land, and employed a 20-piece band with a vocal choir of students from both schools, and virtually no ringers. Perez plays the Fender Rhodes piano exclusively on the suite, an expansive, layered piece that holds no quarter of complexity, joyousness, and hot rhythmic content. A lilting 4/4 beat underneath a 6/8 Latin sizzle starts "Movement I/Awakening." The jumpy, popping charts replete with both call and response and unison lines establish a kinetic pattern. "Movement II/The Quest" is both humorous and inquisitive, with high-end saxes chuckling against the at-ease and unforced acoustic and electric pianos. A clearly festive "Movement III/The Celebration" is in a traditional Panamanian 6/8 rhythm with the horns slyly swaggering to start, but moving into multiple trombone solos, handclapping, the childlike vocal choir singing, laughing, and precluding a stacked and counterpoint finale. This might be available as a download, given the shortness of the program, but it nonetheless will be an item the fans of Perez will want to add to their collections if findable. Perhaps a longer live version will be included on a future recording.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos