The Panama Jazz Festival, one of the coolest annual events in Panama City, returns for its 19th edition this week, Jan. 10-19, with a full roster of international and national talent. Most of the festival will be virtual this year, but it will carry on the tradition of presenting some of the biggest names in regional jazz while supporting music education in Panama.
This year’s festival will feature a diverse lineup of more than 150 events, including concerts with established and up-and-coming acts, including presentations, and learning sessions about different aspects of music. This year’s roster includes Kurt Elling, a two-time Grammy winner recognized as one of the world’s standout jazz vocalists, Global Messengers, Antonio Hart with the Berklee Jazz Institute, and Panamanian salsa singer Solinka.
Every year, the Festival celebrates the contributions of individual Panamanians to the world of jazz. This year’s festival honors Frank Anderson, a Panamanian piano player, who moved to New York to collaborate with many of the great jazz players of a generation, and later worked as a musical director on Broadway.
The festival’s impact goes far beyond the stage. It is a cultural institution in Panama, devoted to education and supporting young talent. The Danilo Perez Foundation (DPF), the primary organizer of the event, “aims to inspire and educate people through music to help musicians and others to build a better future for their respective communities.”
Downbeat Magazine recently interviewed Danilo Pérez, the “Father of the Panama Jazz Festival.” It’s a nice look at the festival, its growth, and its impact on Panama jazz.