Few musicians in Latin jazz have more street cred than trombonist Papo Vazquez. A member of the seminal Fort Apache Band, he has been a part of this music's renaissance both in the US and in Puerto Rico for several decades. He has been at the forefront of producing an Afro-Puerto Rican jazz that leans on traditional styles such as bomba, with its infectious resonant percussion, and plena, which relies on the guiro and tambourine-like pandeiros for its sound. As part of a commission from Philadelphia's Painted Bride Art Center, Vazquez composed new music for his large orchestra, The Mighty Pirates, and Marooned captures them live at that venue.
Vazquez has a powerful horn and drummer Victor Jones, along with a three-person percussion section, presents these rhythms in all their island glory. The Mighty Pirates orchestra is bigger than big and includes four saxophones, four trumpets and four trombonists in addition to Vazquez. While pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist John Benitez have fine jazz chops, it is the arrangements and more specifically the horn charts that make this orchestra, well, to be honest, swing like few big bands do anymore.
Eclectic homage is paid to conguero Ray Barretto on the sophisticated bluesy bomba "Blue Ray," Brazilian musician/composer Hermeto Pascoal with the harmonically interesting "Bomba a la Hermeto" and bassist Charles Mingus via the modern jazz opus "Pa' Mingus." Vazquez impresses with his control on the percussive masterpiece "El Batallon" before the lovely bolero "Julia Jibarita" offers a respite, leading into a super-hot "Race Against Time" to end the night.
Buenos Dias; Happy to be Here; Blue Ray; Aguinaldo Pa
Papo Vazquez: trombone; 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.
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