Fate deals its own hand. Papo Vazquez and The Mighty Pirates were scheduled to perform at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia when an ice storm came by the previous day. And so, a two-hour drive from New York City turned into a five-hour ordeal. One would think that the strains of the journey would tell on the band. But that thought perishes from the moment the first note float in.
Trombonist Vazquez has the innate ability of letting his music breathe and speaking eloquently. It turns on the anvil he calls Afro Puerto Rican Jazz, but he blends in several idioms that make up Latin jazz. More, he fleshes the music with swing and bop, letting the whole coalesce into rich orchestral textures. His skill as an arranger also leaves a soloist enough room to make an impact.
The Mighty Pirates get right down to communicating with the audience. They make it known that they are "Happy to be Here," an up-tempo tune that flies from the reverberating bed of the percussive rhythm. The solos spin into a heady atmosphere, each bringing in a different element that juxtaposes the way in which a tune can be developed and built into a hypnotic document. The horns are agile as altoist Bruce Williams fills the melody with jazz harmonies, getting into the core to find his own well of saturating ideas. Vazquez is in control, he never goes over the top. His ambit is circular, flitting into the tune and kissing it gently. This sits perfectly against the deeper swath cut by tenor saxophonist Willie Williams.
"Pa' Mingus" a tribute to Charles Mingus is a showcase for bassist John Benitez. His phrases are incisive of the mood, yet he never succumbs to aping Mingus. He is a man of his own trajectory, which makes listening to him a constant delight of expectancy. Written in a mainstream jazz mode the soloists, led by Ralph Bowen (tenor saxophone), capture that focus perfectly. Freddie Hendrix (trumpet) loosens molten bop and Jason Marshall (baritone saxophone) stretches the melody and gives it a depth charge. Vazquez has the final say, with light, bouncy lines that dance winsomely in a sunny atmosphere. The orchestration is top-notch, turning this into an extraordinary experience.
"Julia Jibarita" is a bolero aguinaldo. Vazquez is a simmering presence, emotion resonating in every note. He gets solid support from poignant pianist Zaccai Curtis.
Judging from the music, the Painted Bride Center was where the heat was blazing that evening. The cold had been effectively isolated.
Track Listing: Buenos Dias; Happy to be Here; Blue Ray; Aguinaldo Pa
Personnel: Bruce Williams: lead alto sax, flute and soprano sax; Robert Landham: second alto sax and clarinet; Willie Williams: first tenor sax, clarinet and 1st mate; Ralph Bowen: second tenor, piccolo; Jason Marshall: baritone sax and bass clarinet; Walter White: lead trumpet, flugelhorn; Albert Leusink: second trumpet, flugelhorn; Freddie Hendrix: third trumpet, flugelhorn; Nelson Jaime: fourth trumpet; Erick Storckman: first trombone; Luis Cruz: second trombone; Reynaldo Jorge: third trombone; Dave Taylor: bass trombone; Zaccai Curtis: piano; John Benitez: bass; Victor Jones: drums; Anthony Carrillo: barril de bomba, pandero, surdo, bongo; Juan Gutierrez: barril de bomba and Guicharo ; Camilo Molina: barril de bomba, pandero, surdo, cua.
Year Released: 2008
| Record Label: Picaro Records
| Style: Latin/World
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.