When my buddy K.C. Hardin, a friend of Danilo Perez and an active supporter of the Panama Jazz Festival, invited me to stay at his place again, I jumped at the offer. This was the 8th annual festival and my 2nd. You may have seen my photos from last year’s Panama Jazz Festival on this site. After attending last year’s I basically spent the year looking forward to getting back for this January’s. And it turned out to be even more rewarding for me, since I made so many friends there last year.
As I wrote after my first time at the festival, the many amazing concerts were, for me, secondary to the wonderful clinics happening all week. I spent many blissful hours listening to (and of course photographing) the generous and inspiring musicians from around the world as they taught workshops to the many kids who flocked to the festival to devour the energy and knowledge given to them. I watched 10-year-olds learning how to hold their instruments correctly and I sat in the corner of the room watching Brian Lynch rehearsing a quintet of 20 year olds for their big concert. I was invited to grab a drum and play along with a group of young teens I befriended last year (keeping in touch with on Facebook) in a small practice room (my personal high point of the week!).
And twice I got to see Danilo Perez and various incredible musicians playing so intensely I thought my heart was going to give out. During a solo by the trombonist Conrad Herwig, I turned to watch the faces of the audience which filled the Panama National Theatre to see people who were simply blown away, mouths agape, teary eyed, awestruck…as I was, by this jazz giant. But just as powerful was being in the little workshops given to the neighborhood children in the Danilo Perez Music Foundation by some of the students who came down from the Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory and kids from Crossroads High school music program in L.A. Obviously the little ones, and their prized visitors were in musical heaven.
So, it’s not too early to book a room in Panama City for the 9th jazz festival next January! Life’s too short to not get there.
You can see more of my photos from Panama on Facebook.