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Festivals Report

World Premiere of PANAMANIA Suite by Danilo Pérez



Danilo Pérez - Toronto Panamania 2015

Grammy-winning pianist Danilo Pérez presents the World Premiere of his PANAMANIA Suite at Koerner Hall in Toronto, on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Danilo Pérez
The PANAMANIA Lula Big Band with John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Miguel Zenón, Pedrito Martinez, Jane Bunnett & Berklee Global Jazz Institute.

Presented by the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games arts and culture festival, PANAMANIA, presented by CIBC, Toronto Summer Music Festival and Lula Music and Arts Centre. Produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

What could be a better fit for PANAMANIA, the 35-day culture festival presented by
CIBC for the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games, than a project involving
jazz musicians from across the Americas and featuring an artist known for his musical
chronicling of the history of the Americas?

Danilo Pérez’ remarkable explorations of the origins of the Americas have been a thread
in his work for more than two decades. Last year, he released the album Panama 500 to
mark the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Balboa crossing the Isthmus of

Pérez’ compositions weave together jazz (informed by Gillespie as mentor and Monk as
inspiration) with Pan-American folkloric traditions and elements of European classical
music. His pieces have previously been commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln

An exquisite player, brilliant composer, inspired educator and social justice advocate,
Pérez serves as the Artistic Director of both the Panama Jazz Festival and the Berklee
Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) in Boston and is a UNESCO Artist for Peace as well as a
Cultural Ambassador for Panama.

When Lula Music and Arts Centre (LMAC) Co-Artistic Directors Jose Ortega and Tracy
Jenkins received news that their organization had been awarded one of the 26 multidisciplinary project commissions as part of PANAMANIA, they called upon Juno-winning bassist, composer and producer Roberto Occhipinti to help them realize their vision of an international jazz big band in celebration of the Games. Occhipinti agreed to serve as Artistic Director for the project and immediately identified Pérez as the perfect
Musical Director for such an ambitious international jazz collaboration. A new piece that
Pérez has composed specifically for the project will allow the Toronto2015 Games to
have a lasting musical legacy on the global jazz scene.

The inspiration for this piece is the story of the arrival of the Spaniards, Europeans,
Middle Eastern and African cultures to America. This “expedition” is written in three
movements: the first narrates the arrival of the Europeans, the second part is when
the Africans are brought, and the third is the new world. — Danilo Pérez

In turn, Pérez enlisted bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian Blade, (his long-time
bandmates in the Wayne Shorter Quartet), percussionist Pedro Martinez and
saxophonists Jane Bunnett and Miguel Zenón.

Pérez’ role as BGJI Artistic Director made it possible to include seven international
students from the Boston program. These students from Mexico, Venezuela, Korea and
Israel are some of the most promising young players in the world and their involvement
is a fitting reflection of the athletic excellence that the Games themselves represent.

The newly commissioned PANAMANIA suite was composed by Pérez for a big band
format. To complete the ensemble, Occhipinti looked to some of Canada’s finest jazz
players including Mark Kelso, Dave Restivo, Pat La Barbara, Alexis Baro and Kevin
Tucotte. Rollling Stones saxophonist Tim Reis will also join the group from New York.

The commission will receive its world premiere on July 22nd at Koerner Hall in a copresentation with the New World Series as part of 10th annual Toronto Summer Music
Festival. The 28-piece ensemble, conducted by Occhipinti, will also perform a free one
hour concert at Nathan Phillips Square on July 21st as part of the PANAMANIA festival.

Tickets to the concert at Koerner Hall start at $35 and are available online at or by calling 416-408-0208.

On Thursday July 23, Jazz FM 91 will host “The Panama Jazz Connection”, a live-to-air
fundraising event featuring Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and the Berklee
Global Jazz Institute. This fundraiser will be followed by a reception at Lula Lounge
during which Roberto Occhipinti will host a Panamerican Jazz Jam featuring members
of the PANAMANIA Lula Big Band and surprise guests. Members of the press are
invited to rsvp for the 9pm reception by emailing

The PANAMANIA Lula Big Band is:
Roberto Occhipinti, director and bass
Mark Kelso, drums
Dave Restivo, piano
John Johnson, alto sax, flute
Tim Ries, alto sax
Pat LaBarbera, tenor sax
Shirantha Beddage, baritone sax
William Carn, Trombone
Christian Overton, trombone
Alexander Duncan, bass trombone
Alexis Baro, trumpet
Alexander Brown, trumpet
Kevin Turcotte, trumpet
William Sperandei, trumpet

Performing with the Berklee Global Jazz institute:
Marco Pignataro, managing director and tenor sax
Carlos Capacho, cuatro
Edmar Colón Gierbolini, tenor sax
Ga Young Bae, piano
Juan Alejandro Francisco Saenz, drums
Michael Wang, trombone
Roni Eytan, harmonica
Seungho Jang, bass

In the spirit of the TORONTO 2015 Games, Danilo Pérez and the PANAMANIA Lula Big
Band will foster pride in the diversity of the Americas, create opportunities for cultural
exchange and encourage mentoring across borders.

Contributor Bios

Danilo Pérez
Pianist and Grammy-winner Danilo Pérez is among the most influential musicians of our
time, having led ensembles across the world and toured with jazz masters such as
Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Haynes and Wayne Shorter. He has received numerous awards as
an artist and for his social work, including the Smithsonian Legacy Award, the Orden
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa and the Key to the City of Panama. He also presides over the
Danilo Pérez Foundation, which provides outreach music programs to children living in
extreme poverty in Panama, and founded the Panama Jazz Festival. Pérez’ new
album, called Children of the Light, with Brian Blade and John Patituccti is scheduled for
release in September of this year.

John Patitucci
Grammy-winning bassist and composer John Patitucci, also a dedicated music educator
– currently an artist in residence at BGJI, has released twelve albums as a leader
including his most recent entitled Brooklyn, which features Brian Blade as well as Adam
Rogers and Steve Cardenas both on electric guitar. Patitucci continues to be active in
Chick Corea’s Elektric and Akoustic Bands as well as Wayne Shorter’s quartet.

Brian Blade
Toronto audiences will have the opportunity to hear more by the remarkable drummer
Brian Blade on March 5 when he returns to Koerner Hall with quintet as part of the
“Katrina – 10 Years On series.” “A profoundly important band,” according to DownBeat,
Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band includes Jon Cowherd, Chris Thomas, Melvin Butler
and Myron Walden. While developing this highly original project over seventeen years,
Blade has also cultivated deep artistic associations with Joshua Redman, Joni Mitchell,
Kenny Garrett, Daniel Lanois and Wayne Shorter.

Miguel Zenón
Miguel Zenón is a multiple Grammy-nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow .
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Zenón has toured/recorded with Charlie Haden, Fred
Hersh, Kenny Werner, David Sánchez and The Mingus Big Band. His latest of nine
releases, Identities are Changeable explores national identity as experienced by Puerto
Rican communities in the United States. A dedicated jazz educator, Zenón spearheaded
the Caravana Cultural program which presents free jazz concerts featuring leading New
York artists in rural areas of Puerto Rico.

Pedrito Martinez
Called a “genius” by Wynton Marsalis and “the real thing” by Quincy Jones, Havanaborn
and New York based Pedrito Martinez is a consummate master of Afro-Cuban
folkloric music and the world’s first-call rumbero — playing, singing and dancing with
dozens of ensembles and on over 100 recordings. A multi-award-winner and favourite
at European and American jazz festivals, Martinez was named “Percussionist of the
Year” in 2014 by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Jane Bunnett
Four-time JUNO Award winner, two-time Grammy nominee and Officer of the Order of
Canada, soprano saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett has been crucial to the development
of Latin jazz in Canada and internationally, introducing Cuban players such as Hilario
Duran, David Virelles and Dafnis Prieto to North American audiences. Her latest project
the Juno-winning project, Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, has received rave review in
both the U.S. and Canada.

Roberto Occhipinti
Straddling the worlds of jazz, classical, world opera and new music, Roberto Occhipinti
has worked with the Winnipeg Symphony, the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Canadian
Opera Company, Memo Acevedo’s Banda Brava, Jane Bunnett, Esprit Orchestra,
Arraymusic and Gryphon Trio. Ongoing projects include The Hilario Duran Trio and
Latin Big Band, Soul Stew and Michael Occhipinti’s The Sicilian Jazz Project. As a
producer, Occhipinti has won JUNO awards for his work with bassist Joel Quarrington,
pianist Hilario Duran and David Buchbinder. He has also produced recordings for Dafnis
Prieto, Dave Young and Quartetto Gelato.

Berklee Global Jazz Institute
Under the the artistic direction of Pérez, with faculty and artists in residence that include
Joe Lovano, John Patitucci, Ben Street, Terri Lyne Carrington and Dave Liebman, the
BGJI provides an interdisciplinary music program that encourages students to explore
their creativity, to discover the power of music as a tool for the betterment of society and
to connect musical creative thinking with the restoration of nature.

Presented by CIBC, PANAMANIA is the 35-day arts and culture festival to enrich the
TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games experience. More than 250 unique
performances and exhibitions, both free and ticketed, will take place across Toronto
from July 10 to August 15. PANAMANIA will showcase the diverse cultures and artistic
excellence of Ontario, Canada and the Americas through music, theatre, dance, visual
arts and fashion.

Toronto Summer Music Festival
An international classical music festival and academy, Toronto Summer Music Festival
(TSMF) brings world-renowned performing artists to Toronto for an unparalleled
combination of concerts, guest lectures and masterclasses. Toronto Summer Music
celebrates its 10th Anniversary Festival from July 16 to August 9.

JAZZ.FM91 is Canada’s only broadcaster and registered not-for-profit charitable arts
organization dedicated to enriching the cultural, educational and community experience
of their audience. JAZZ.FM91 is more than a broadcaster – they are a community
dedicated to the appreciation, cultivation and preservation of jazz and the arts. In
partnership with LEVEL 1 Collective, Jazz FM 91 will host “The Panama Jazz
Connection”, a live-to-air fundraising event featuring Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian
Blade and Berklee Global Jazz Institute on Thursday, July 23, 2015 in support of music
education in Canada and abroad.

Lula Music and Arts Centre
Lula Music and Arts Centre is a non-profit organization with the mandate to support
Canadian world music through presentations, festivals, education, artist support and
audience development. Most activities take place at the Latin/ world music venue Lula
Lounge in Toronto’s west end. With a focus on music and dance of the Americas, the
annual Lulaworld festival has featured artists such as Dafnis Prieto, Jimmy Bosch,
Ralph Irizarry, Bejamim Taubkin, Herman Olivera, Jesus Alemañy and Alfredo de la Fe
as well as Canadian artists Amanda Martinez Hilario Duran, Aline Morales, Roberto
Occhipinti, David Buchbinder and Quique Escamilla.

Source: Lula Music and Arts Centre Press Release

Latin Jazz Network is a project dedicated to the advancement of Latin jazz and its creators. Since 2000 LJN has been spreading the word about this wonderful music known under the umbrella term: LATIN JAZZ.

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Festivals Report

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 24 to July 3, 2022



TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2022

10 Days of Free Shows — Say What!

My TD Toronto Jazz Festival started mid festival, Tuesday, June 28th, early evening. It was all about Juno winners and nominees. The first act, Sammy Jackson and her quartet performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Sammy Jackson won a Juno for vocal jazz album of the year. Her band, made up of Jackson on Vocals, Thomas Fleming – guitar, Chris Pruden – keys, Mark Godfrey – bass and Ian Wright playing the drums. Jackson sang songs from her award winning 5-track EP With You, featuring original compositions. Sammy Jackson added some songs from her 2016 release, the 5-track EP Take Me Back, to make for an enjoyable hour long performance. Jackson’s songs are about joy, vulnerability, long distance relationships, and love. Jackson blends jazz, R&B, soul and pop with her beautiful voice.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Jackson covers an impressive vocal range, and her phrasing is delightful. Jackson shines on the ballads. I especially enjoyed “Bad Reception” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Sammy Jackson concluded her show with one dedicated to her son, entitled “Chuckie”, a toddler who happened to be in the audience and made a cameo at the front of the stage. This tune was upbeat and had a happy go lucky, dance groove to get everybody moving.

I spoke with Jackson after the show, I asked her if she noticed the Juno enhancing her career? She said, “I think it’s why I’m here. The Juno increased my exposure. So that’s great. Thank you Juno!”

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Kellylee Evans performed the evening of the 28th and I was not going to miss her concert at the TD Main Stage. Kellylee Evans was in great vocal form and in accompaniment with a wonderful band made up of Joel Visentin – keyboards, Mark Godfrey – bass, Rich Grossman – guitar, and Ian Wright on drums.

Evans has suffered some serious physical setbacks in her recovery from a tragic accident in 2013. She has an injury that is effecting her ability to walk and even to stand. She performed the show from a sitting position.

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Evans puts her heart and soul into her singing. She is a Juno winner for vocal jazz album of the year for Nina, released in 2010. One of my favourite vocal jazz albums.

This evening, Evans performed songs from her new 5-song EP Green Light as well as many others. A beautiful, dynamic, high energy performance—even from her seated position.

Alexis Baró Quintet - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Alexis Baró Quintet – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I started off Wednesday, the 29th with the amazing trumpet playing of Alexis Baró. The Alexis Baró Quintet was performing at the TD Stage at Festival Village in Yorkville.

I really enjoy Baró’s trumpet playing. I think he is one of the most expressive players in the Afro Cuban style. Baró performed songs from his new album Ma Raiz.

Larnell Lewis Band - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I only stuck around for a few of the songs as Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis were performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove, a few streets south. It is most unfortunate to have these scheduling conflicts. However, It is amazing to have so much talent at one festival.

Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis performed on the TD Main Stage Wednesday the 29th – a dynamite performance. The band, made up of Larnell Lewis – drums, Joy Lapps – steelpan, Jeremy Ledbetter – piano, Elmer Ferrer – guitar, Rob Christian – woodwinds, Andrew McAnsh – trumpet and Marc Manhertz – bass.

Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

“Rejoice” was the title of one of the songs performed and to hear this band is to rejoice. When I listen to Larnell Lewis play I feel the pulse through my soul. I think this is the most heartful drummer I have ever heard. His music is uplifting, powerful, dynamic, his beats, fills and rhythms, just outstanding. He shares his heart with the audience, nothing is left on the stage. 

Now to get ready for a return to Koerner Hall, after 2 years of isolation, for one of the few ticketed events, the Gregory Porter band. Excited? Yes, indeed!

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