Heritage building jazzed up in Casco Viejo

14 Feb 2014

Danilo Perez to open 50-seat jazz club in Panama's first skyscraper later this month

The American Trade Hotel opened in the city of Casco Viejo in autumn 2013 providing a haven for cultural and artistic people looking to meet like-minded travellers in Panama. Originally designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the 1917 building is now a boutique hotel with an artistic edge in Casco Viejo’s UNESCO-designated district.

On 23 February 2014, famed jazz musician Danilo Perez will celebrate the opening of a 50-seat jazz club at the American Trade Hotel in a creative partnership between composer and venue. Working with local architects Hache Uve, sound engineer Rob Griffin and LA-based Commune Design, the partnership looks to bring a world-class jazz venue to Panama.

Kelly Sawdon, Chief Cultural Engineer of Ace Hotel Group explains: “Our hotels have always been a platform for community and creative engagement and we find ourselves perfectly aligned with Danilo's vision to do this with his jazz club on an on-going basis. Through this special cultural exchange amongst travelers, musicians and students alike, we believe we can positively impact both the community in Casco Viejo and the world at large.”

An industrial feel has been given to the 50-seat club with steel doors that also create an intimate atmosphere. Decorated with jazz memorabilia donated by Danilo Perez, the venue also incorporates many original elements of the building including the exposed brick walls and floating staircase in the hotel patio. Proceeds from the opening performances at Danilo’s Jazz Club will support the Danilo Perez Foundation which is based across the street from the Jazz Club.

“The opening of Danilo’s Jazz Club fulfills a long-time dream of mine to have a first class listening room in Panama that supports the education of - and provides opportunities for - musicians from my home and globally,” says Danilo Pérez. “Because of its geographical position, Casco Viejo is the perfect gathering place for musical talent from all over the world to come to Panama. Panama has had a long relationship with jazz and I think Danilo’s Jazz Club will be a great platform for people from all over the world to make connections, hear great music and support each other.”

The team of Hache Uve and Commune Design was also responsible for the transformation of this elegant heritage structure into the boutique hotel it is today. Working with Atelier Ace and Conservatorio, the team was presented with a historically-significant structure that had seen a melange of uses but retained many of its original elements.

After the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, this neo-classical building began to rise in Casco Viejo as the first ‘skyscraper’ in Panama. Constructed using reinforced concrete - the first building in the country to do so - the tower quickly became a recognisable feature and its modern apartment units were in high demand.

Over the years, the building was used as bank, a department store and more recently as the headquarters of a neighbourhood gang which used its superior height to control the local area. When Conservatorio purchased the tower in 2007, they found that the core design elements of the original building were intact and brought on Hache Uve and Commune Design to transform the remainder of the tower into the boutique hotel you see today.

On February 23rd, there will be a reduced admission performance at 4pm for families, followed by a set for the general public at 7pm - tickets will be $5 and $20, respectively. The performance will feature music from Panama 500 (Mack Avenue Records), Danilo’s latest album release, performed by Pérez and Berklee Global Jazz Institute ambassadors.

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