All About Jazz CD Review
Papo Vazquez and The Mighty Pirates | Picaro Records
By Jerry D'Souza
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.
Jesse Bermudez, Executive Producer/AMLA
Papo Vazquez, Producer
Painted Bride Art Center - Co-Producer
Mighty Pirate Orchestra
Bruce Williams - Lead Alto Sax, Flute & Soprano Sax
Robert Landham - 2nd Alto Sax & Clarinet
Willie Williams - 1st Tenor Sax, Clarinet & 1st Mate
Ralph Bowen - 2nd Tenor, Piccolo,
Jason Marshall - Baritone Sax & Bass Clarinet
Walter White - Lead Trumpet, Flugel horn
Albert Leusink- 2nd Trumpet, Flugel horn
Freddie Hendrix - 3rd Trumpet, Flugel horn
Nelson Jaime - 4th Trumpet
Erick Storckman - 1st Trombone
Luis Cruz - 2nd Trombone
Reynaldo Jorge - 3rd 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 & Güìcharo
Camilo Molina – Barril de Bomba, Pandero, Surdo, Cua