Panama Piano is the 30th album from pianist/composer Louis Landon and is something of a musical documentary about a two-week road trip Louis and his partner, Christine, took through the country of Panama earlier this year (2020). I love the variety of music on this album – from bright and lively to relaxed and contemplative. Landon’s colorful jazz roots often bubble up and remind us what an amazing pianist he is. Quite a few of Landon’s recent albums have been improvisations captured by the recording process. He started putting this album together by thinking about the places that they visited and his feelings about those experiences and then improvising. Instead of compiling those improvisations into the album, this time Landon went in a different direction and composed the thirteen pieces that make up the album using the ideas and melodies that came up during the improvisations. Quite a few of the tracks are available as singles, but the full album will give a more complete experience.
Panama Piano begins with “Pan-American Highway,” named for a 19,000 mile highway that goes from the southern tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Feelings of excitement and movement run through the piece as the adventure begins. “Playa Santa Catalina” is named for a beach town where the travelers spent a couple of nights. The piece is quite rhythmic but relaxed and you can almost feel the warm ocean breezes. “Casco Viejo” is Spanish for “Old Quarter,” and this piece is reminiscent of the music from the old dance halls of Cuba. I really like this one! “Las Lajas” describes the pleasures of a serene walk on a deserted and unspoiled beach. “Panama” is vibrant and energetic, and I think anyone who knows Landon’s music would recognize this one as his creation. Pelicans have been my favorite birds to watch for most of my life, and anyone who has had the good luck to watch these amazing creatures glide through the air and then dive for food knows what I mean. “Pelicans” was inspired by watching this happen, and is composed as a slow, graceful waltz. “Boquete” is a small town adorned with tropical flowers everywhere. The album cover features a photo Landon took of a brilliant rainbow that appeared during their stay. The piece is mostly relaxed with a gentle rocking rhythm, but a few passages boost the energy level and then settle back down. “The Lost Waterfalls” is another favorite. Landon did a great job of capturing the feeling of falling water as well as the joy of finding three large waterfalls and being able to experience them without a lot of other people around. I love “Diablo Rojo” (“Red Devil”), a wonderful jazz piece about the rogue buses of Panama City that are brightly painted and roar through the city streets with music blaring. I dare you to keep your feet still while listening to this one! “Volcan Baru” is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama. Chords and octaves in the deep bass of the piano evoke feelings of majesty and power while the melody hints at beauty and grace. We end our Panamanian excursion with a spicy chicken soup called “Sancocho.” The piece begins slowly, but it’s not long before a lively Latin jazz rhythm takes over and sends the spirits soaring.
Panama Piano is an excellent diversion from the doldrums of 2020! Great music, joyful piano and a mix of excitement and relaxation are just what we need right now!
The album is available from www.LouisLandon.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp.
Kathy Parsons MainlyPiano.com