1 May 2017


Today I would like to recommend to you a video of a band playing that old favourite Panama.

You can watch it here (click on):

Why do I like this particular video?

1. Because is was filmed by that fine recorder of the Japanese jazz scene codenamed ragtimecave. He succeeds in getting super close-ups of musicians and he also achieves videos of high sound quality.

2. Because it demonstrates yet again what a terrific traditional jazz scene there is in Japan; and how well the Japanese succeed in bringing on young players.

3. Because this is in many ways an exemplary performance of Panama. Note the teamwork and also the well-judged but not-too-loud driving power of the rhythm players.

It could be argued that this performance goes on for too long. Was it really necessary for every member of the seven-piece band to take solo choruses on the final theme? Perhaps not. But I will grant them that little self-indulgence in a performance of such creativity and energy.

By the way, Panama Rag (originally entitled Panama, A Characteristic Novelty) is a standard in the repertoire of traditional jazz bands. It dates back almost 110 years, having been written by William H. Tyers in 1911. Tyers, born in Virginia, the son of former slaves, lived from 1870 to 1924. The piece of music possibly has nothing to do with the country Panama or the Panama Canal which was under construction at the time: it is said by at least one source to have been named in honour of Aida Overton Walker and Her Panama Girls - a music hall act. Whatever the truth, it is a great number and can sound good no matter at what tempo you take it. It can be strenuous to play, especially for the trumpeter, as there are five themes - all of which are usually repeated.