Poet Lola Rodriguez del Tio declared Puerto Rico and Cuba as "two wings of the same bird, yet many people lose sight of Puerto Rico's musical contributions. Numerous Latin jazz musicians hold Puerto Rican heritage, yet most songs mix jazz harmonies with Cuban rhythms. New York Puerto Rican musicians applied their identities to traditional dance music, but most listeners hear salsa's Cuban rhythms rather than a Puerto Rican identity. Young musicians wanting to learn "Latin music often overlook Bomba, Plena, and Danza in favor of Son, Songo, and Cha Cha Cha. Papo Vazquez Pirates Troubadours take a different stance on From The Badlands, balancing the relationship between Puerto Rico and Cuba while exploring the improvisational space between them.
Puerto Rican cultural references provide the foundation for several songs. Vazquez alternates melodic statements with the remaining winds over a Bomba Sica rhythm on "Bomba en Monte. Saxophonist Willie Williams passionately explores his upper register until pianist Edsel Gomez builds intensity through strong thematic development. The menacing melody and sparse chordal accompaniment on "Yuba'donbe leaves room for the percussion to assert a powerful Bomba Yuba. Vazquez immediately makes an authoritative statement while Williams forces syncopated rhythms with his biting tone.
Other songs breathe new life into traditional dance structures and Cuban rhythms. The band alternates between salsa and a funky Bomba on the danceable "El Macanaso. Vocalist Herman Olivera presents a strong vocal and improvised pregóns, while the band plays mambos over a vivid street scene. The band's individual voices fuel the Latin jazz blowing session "Si Señor Bob. Vazquez and Williams combine jazz and rhythmic ideas until Gomez utilizes modern jazz and traditional Latin figures. These pieces bring equality to the album, recognizing diverse elements of Latin music.
Vazquez also investigates the relationship between traditional jazz and Latin music. From the initial frenetic phrase, "The Mighty MF's sets an energetic pace that matches the band's enthusiasm. The rhythm section quickly moves between swing and salsa, laying the foundation for individual approaches from Vazquez, Williams, Gomez, and saxophonist Sherman Irby. "Lina's Waltz gets a sensitive treatment from the group. Vazquez improvises reflectively, but still implies syncopated figures. Gomez makes a thoughtful statement before bassist Ricky Rodriguez plays melodic ideas through short rhythmic phrases. Obviously jazz remains the driving force behind Vazquez's Latin music explorations.
The musical blurring between Cuba and Puerto Rico stems from many sources, but Vazquez clarifies his vision without excuses on From The Badlands. He prioritizes Bomba throughout the album, clearly stating a rich understanding of Puerto Rican traditions. Cuban rhythms hold an equal footing, as Vazquez recognizes their important contributions. He creatively blends jazz ideals, consistently prioritizing improvisation and personal statements. By balancing both wings of del Tio's bird, Vazquez and his band fly unhindered through an exciting array of musical ideas, exposing the beauty of an equal musical heritage.
Track Listing: The Might MF
Personnel: Papo Vazquez: trombone; Willie Williams: tenor sax; Sherman Irby: alto sax; Edsel Gomez: piano; Freddie McFarlane: piano; Ricky Rodriguez: bass; Richie Flores: percussion, congas; Victor Jones: drums; Henry Cole: drums; Roberto Cepeda: vocals, panderetas; Anthony Carrillo: barilles, percussion; Milton Cordona: coro; Herman Olivera: vocals, coro and maracas; Juan Guiterrez: panderetas; Joe Gonzalez: bongo, campana and bell; Felipe Luciano: news reporter.
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