The Republic of Panama has produced some stellar modern musicians like popular singer and actor Rubén Blades and jazz drummer Billy Cobham. Add to that list the prolific pianist, educator and social activist Danilo Pérez.
Panama has much the same mix of cultural influences as South America, Mexico, Cuba and the island nations of the Caribbean. Danilo Pérez specializes in "Pan-American" music from North, Central and South Americas; folkloric music and world music, guided by his love of jazz.
Pérez definitely has the jazz and Pan-American credentials. After studying European classical piano at the National Conservatory in Panama, he moved on to study jazz composition at Berklee College of Music. He performed with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra and with all the jazz masters: Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Gary Burton and Roy Haynes.
Danilo's been focusing on his own ensembles and projects since about 1993. "Children of the Light" features drummer Brian Blade and bassist John Pattitucci, who are also his bandmates in the Wayne Shorter Quartet. "Panamonk" is his Thelonious Monk tribute with bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz.
When he's not touring or recording, he's doing work related to his appointments as a UNESCO Artist for Peace, a Cultural Ambassador to the Republic of Panama, the Artistic Director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and the Artistic Director of the Panama Jazz Festival. He also runs a foundation in Panama for young people to develop their full potential through music education and music therapy.
Danilo does all of this with a brilliant smile and a bright, positive outlook. He lives to share the joy of music.
Spend some time getting to know Danilo Pérez with this great video from NPR's Jazz Night In America, and listen for Danilo's version of John Coltrane's "Impressions" this week on Saturday Jazz Caliente.
Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.