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Papo Vazquez Pirates Troubadours: Carnival In San Juan

Jim Santella By

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This hot Latin treat is a steaminng portion of Afro-Caribbean jazz that reflects the specific cultural elements found in Puerto Rico. Trombonist Papo Vazquez wrote most of the selections and interprets them with a little help from some wildly enthusiastic friends.

Vazquez, Willie Williams, Arturo O’Farrill, John Benitez and Victor Jones form the core ensemble for much of the session. Together, they’re a unit with a cohesive mindset. One supports the other, as lyrical instrumental voices intertwine to form an emphatic harmony and melody with which the Pirates Troubadours relate hot anthems. Percussionists Tio Cepeda, Horacio Hernandez, Roberto Cepeda and Joe Gonzalez lay down a firm bed of fiery rhythms. Cultural ties remain intact, as Vazquez displays a mix of traditional sounds and contemporary ideas. Both the ensemble and individual soloists portray several hundred years of gradual change.

Thelonious Monk’s “Stuffy Turkey” swings with straight-ahead fire: Williams and Vazquez square off with exciting jams that light up the hemisphere. Bill Lee’s “Worlds” contains an exotic presence that the tenor saxophonist and trombonist interpret with lyrical tenacity. Standing out coolly with ballad charms, the soloists evoke a harmony that brings worlds together. Like Lee’s score to Mo’ Better Blues, this piece brings a calming influence to an extremely hot session. Pianist O’Farrill steers Vazquez’s up-tempo “Like a Little Child” and his searing ballad “Snow Angel” with cascading forces. Gently, he collects and nudges the ensemble slightly along. Lead voices (trombone and tenor) carry a forceful message. This one is for devotees of salsa, Latin jazz, world music and powerful straight-ahead jazz.

Track Listing: Carnival in San Juan; Mundo Bizarro; Las Torres; Plena Pa

Personnel: Papo Vazquez

Title: Carnival In San Juan | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Cubop

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