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Papo Vazquez Pirates Troubadors: From the Badlands

Jerry D'Souza By

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Papo Vazquez wears his hats as composer, arranger and trombone player comfortably. As a composer he uses several genres including the aguinaldo, guaracha, bomba, mambo and jazz. His arrangements draw strong ensemble lines and then open the door to let the soloists ride into their improvisations. As a trombone player he has a vitality that lifts a tune and the ability to slip into a quickly created nook to add a delightful exclamation.

Vazquez'a music is earthy and powerful. He mines the music of Puerto Rico and Cuba for their dynamic impact and comes up with a colorful hybrid of sound and rhythm.

The dominant motif here is the mambo, which Vazquez uses on three compositions. Each has a different feel. "The Mighty MF's meshes jazz and mambo, "Los Mediocres blends bomba and mambo, while "Si Senor Bob captures the character of New York mambo jazz.

Willie Williams (tenor sax) flies into bop territory on "The Mighty MF's, laying the groundwork for Vazquez, whose short slides and quick growls are complemented by deep jabs. Sherman Irby (alto saxophone) is in fiery mode, his blazing lines cooled by the airy fan of Freddie McFarlane's piano. The brass returns, and the melody moves into the mambo, a frame that has been set by Richie Flores on percussion.

Herman Olivera (vocals) and Nelson Jaime (trumpet) interact with the percussion section for a swaying time on "Los Mediocres. The energy from the call and response of Olivera and the coro with the swinging formations that Irby, Williams, Vazquez and Edsel Gomez (piano) add, stamp the class on this tune.

The mambo beat swishes into "Si Senor Bob. Vazquez opens the melody, solid in his flow of ideas and the content he fills in. Gomez creates the jazz balance, an ethereal beauty flowing nimbly in his notes.

Vazquez shows his tranquil side on "Lina's Waltz. He illuminates the head, playing with gentle demeanor, his lines alluring. The horns punch the pulse and change the dimension, but the main channel is held by Vazquez who is an emotional store house. Irby and Williams add modulated swing, and push the boundaries with hard edged swipes. And this, of course, is another smash.


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.

Title: From the Badlands | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Picaro Records


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