The incomparable Danilo Perez, the Cultural Ambassador to his native Panama, showed why he has earned that title. Enriching the audience with a story about the concept of America and what it means to different people provided a nice complement to the opening Suite for the Americas. A well-conceived piece with diverse influences, this gave the audience a good taste of what was to come over two sets of energetic, creative celebration.
Nigerian-born Essiet Essiet did some very imaginative bass playing. Solid throughout, his solos had a freshness and crispness and dug deep into the groove. Donny McCaslin played a variety of instruments but soared through the multikulti tapestry on the tenor and soprano saxophones. Luciana Souza brought her beautiful voice and the powerful spirit of Brazil to the stage. Very enthralling, her voice added depth and grace to the performance. The crowd was fortunate to hear the work and play of Adam Cruz on drums. A very creative individual, Adam chose his spots, becoming extremely dynamic when he was moved to do so.
The overseer, Danilo Perez, orchestrated the musical kaleidoscope. Individuals like Danilo are very rare. To play with such brilliance and create such a convergence of diverse influences is very rare indeed. Take, for instance, his use of the melodica, a keyboard that is blown into like a horn. Interacting with the soprano, he used the melodica to create a unique call and response and together they played the head of the tune while Souza provided vocal counterparts. Another highlight of the evening featured all five musicians on percussion for an extended rhythmic exploration/explosion. One tasty number had all three levels of the theater singing-they would have been undoubtedly dancing had the venue been more conducive. Elegant Dance, a Panamanian number, found Danilo displaying his graceful command of the piano. The encore featured the vocals of Luciana Souza on a lovely piece in what was by far the best representation of her talents.