Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez is centerstage for this extraordinary collection, but he's hardly alone in the spotlight. And that doesn't just speak to the players, (violinist Regina Carter, bassist John Patitucci, saxophonist Chris Potter, vocalists Luciana Souza and Claudia Acuna, drummer Brian Blade, etc.) but to the superb traditional musicians and percussion section. Imagine Flora Purim with Chic Corea thirty years on. "Suite For The Americas," performed in two sections, is played brilliantly and features some of the best playing on the collection, with exquisite results from Carter, Souza and Potter, especially. "Elegant Dance" has a flowing elegance that highlights Souza's wonderful vocalizing. Bassist Richard Bona takes the lead vocals for "Panafrica," a piece that evokes dancing down the beach. "Baile," a too-short solo piano piece resets and anchors for the following "Song To The Land," and more extraordinary vocals from the Purim-inspired Claudia Acuna. The delicate "Prayer," the dissonantly percussive "Overture," and "Rio To Panama" continue to impress. The closing "Panama Libre," "Panama 2000" and "And Then," a stark solo piece, close the collection most magnificently. Piano and electric guitar (Kurt Rosenwinkel) dominate the first of the three pieces, reminding that Perez is a major player in the new century. The middle piece reminds of Perez's jazz and Central American passions with a host of native instrumentation joining forces with the pianist on the standout piece in the collection.
Danilo Perez is mesmerizing throughout. While certainly surrounded by dazzling musicians throughout the collection, it is his intricate and often understated playing that serves as the glue here. He has a touch that ranges from hard to soft, from delicate to percussive. His greatest asset, however, is his ability to tell the story, to paint the picture and to do so with beautifully conceived musicality.