Various Panama: Latin, Funk and Calypso on the Isthmus 196

Another utterly worthwhile compilation by Soundway and once again, the label goes way beyond a mere compilation of funk and wannabe funk into the real soul of Panama. The detailed liner notes as usual are wholly satisfying, tracing the history of Panama’s immigrants and the music they brought to the isthmus. This was one of the hardest-partying countries of the Caribbean for decades (American G.I.’s in the Canal Zone had to be entertained, for one) and the diverse scene was full of talented musicians. Surprisingly, the recording quality is also fine on most tracks. Panama Esta … is a fine, intimate descarga, not overtly Cuban, and featuring the Coleman Hawkins-esque Chombo Silva, a mainstay of the great Alegre Allstars jam sessions of the ’60s, which have recently been reissued. The funky jazz of Victor Boa Y Su Musica would have been right at home on Argo records in the mid-’60s, while Freddy Y Su Afro Latinos brings Joe Cuba’s cool vibes to a hotter setting. Although there are plenty of first class descargas, the most memorable cuts are the James Brown-style boogaloo pieces and a very swampy version of Cymande’s "The Message.” (Soundway)