Cover Story

JazzFest: a week of concerts, workshops and fun

By Kimberly Hall

Plaza Catedral
A view of Plaza Catedral during the 2009 Jazz Festival free Saturday concert. Get your spot early! Una vista de la Plaza Catedral durante el gratuito concierto gratuito del sábado durante el Festival de Jazz del 2009.

The seventh annual Panama Jazz Festival is upon us once again from January 11 to 16. The city has recovered from the New Year celebration and the festival offers an opportunity to celebrate again, against the backdrop of January's blue skies and among cool breezes. Best known for its all-day Saturday concert in Plaza Cathedral in Casco Viejo, "JazzFest" is a week-long event sponsored by Fundacion Danilo Perez, whose mission is to offer opportunities for the cultural growth of Panamanian youth through music education.

Each year a powerful array of jazz musicians travel to Panama to perform at venues all over the city. Less heralded are the clinics where students compete for precious scholarships and musicians arrive from all over the country to attend sessions by some of the world's best jazz mentors.

The festival's founder is celebrated Panamanian jazz pianist Danilo Perez. He was recently honored with the Legacy Award from the Smithsonian Latino Center. Perez has infused the JazzFest with his teaching legacy making it as much about enhancing the skills of our local musicians as showcasing them.

In honor of this year being the 7th festival, here are seven events not to be missed in this year's festival:

Fundación Danilo Pérez

FAMILY CONCERTS at ACP: All week at the Panama Canal Authority, Monday through Friday from 4:00-6:00pm, intimate shows with professors and top jazz students from around the world. Teatro Ascanio Arosemena, tickets $10/day.

THE GALA NIGHT at TEATRO NACIONAL: The Danilo Perez Foundation's ritzy gala to celebrate the opening of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. Danilo has been named Artistic Director. 8pm, Tickets $150, proceeds benefit the Danilo Perez Foundation.

ALLSTAR LINE-UP THURSDAY NIGHT AT ATLAPA: Famous New Orleans jazz pianist, Ellis Marasalis; long-time Panama Jazz Fest supporter and bassist John Patitucci; saxophonist Joe Lovano; drummer, Terri Lynne Carrington and internationally renowned percussionist Jamey Haddad. 7:30pm, Teatro Anayansi, ATLAPA

JUANITO Y SU NUEVO FLAMENCO & DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Enjoy the night's first set by Juanito Pascal, a top young Spanish flamenco guitarist, but stay for Dee Dee Bridgewater, 2-time Grammy award winning jazz singer, actress and an all-around performer. You don't want to miss seeing her on stage with Danilo and world-renowned saxophonist, Carlos Gannett. 7:30pm, T. Anayansi, ATLAPA

Fundación Danilo Pérez

LATE NIGHT JAM SESSIONS: Thursday, 14th and Friday, 15th starting at 10:30pm, international and local musicians will get together for impromptu jams at Casco Viejo hotspots Platea (Calle Primera) or La Casona (Plaza Herrera) or at this year's official festival hotel sponsor, Hotel El Panama.

PLAZA CATEDRAL FREE ALL-DAY CONCERTS: Saturday, 16th. Music in the Plaza from 1:00pm to 8pm. With a total of seven groups from Panama, Italy, Puerto Rico, Boston and Australia are all performing.

SATURDAY NIGHT SALSA MEETS JAZZ: Saturday, 16th. The grand finale of the Jazz Festival brings together two musical styles with Grupo La K - Shamba. Hotel El Panama 10pm