Papo Vazquez is a most unusual trombonist and musician. He is a “deep” player. His music seems to originate somewhere deep in his head.
It is almost as if his soul lives there and because ideas seem to start in the brain, Vazquez sculpts them there so that when they emerge it is as if Vazquez has created something so deep and thoughtful it could only have come from a brain and soul combined. He proves this once again on his magnificent album, Oasis. The melodies are so beautifully crafted and even when they appear to be simple, they are actually so three dimensional that notes, lines and phrases appear to have a spherical feel as they roll and tumble out of his horn and out of the instruments of the other musicians who play here as Mighty Pirates.
But it is Papo Vazquez who leads the charge. He is, to use a fairly overused term, a complete musician. His ability to write wonderful melodies is enviable. However, Vazquez gives these beautiful melodies a body and form that is exquisitely defined, sensuous and colourful. Listening to his work with eyes closed, it is possible to “see” his notes as women cavorting hypnotically in a parallel universe. That Vazquez brings music to life is easy to discern and appreciate. He sculpts sound and colours it with extraordinary harmonies all by himself. Then, suggesting much more in his musical direction he extracts an altogether new world of colour from those accompanying him. Vazquez is also a sublime rhythmic player. He seems to embody the tunes he writes so that when he plays his entire body seems to dance into the tunes.
Oasis is a classic example of this Vazquez’s music shuffles and swings as he melds Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the freer swing of jazz idioms. But here too he is unique, creating spectacular rhythmic imagery with his horn and the instruments of the other musicians, such as tenor saxophonist, Willie Williams, pianist, Rick Germanson and of course his majestic rhythm colourists: bassist Dezron Douglas, the sublime drummer, Alvester Garnett and of course his two percussionists, Carlos Maldonado and Anthony Carillo. Although it is senseless to try and single out any particular tune “Sol Tropical” and “Psalm 59”might be good examples of the majesty of the music on this record. Just listening to the growl of Douglas’ bass together with the dazzling arpeggios on Germanson’s piano and the thundering broadcast from Vazquez’s bone is breathtaking.
There is another side to Papo Vazquez as well and that is his immensely soft, emotional dimension. On music such as “City of Brotherly Love” Vazquez is incomparable as he plays his heart out on the melody as well in the interminable dance that he creates with saxophonist Williams. This and the sensitivity he has for the wind from deep in his lungs is achingly beautiful. This is felt throughout the album, from the introduction to “Manga Larga” right through the meandering shadowy course of ”Oasis” with its carnal strings and horns, until the extended finale on “Plena Drumline” a remarkable creation that glorifies the African colours that reside the Puerto Rican musical spirit. In Oasis Papo Vazquez has created a major work; something that will endure for many years to come.
Tracks: Manga Larga: Oriza, Bomba Rule, Jazz; Sol Tropical: Plena, Jazz; Danzaon Don Vazquez: Danza; Que Sabes Tu: Bomba Hoyo de Mula Jazz; Psalm 59: Jazz Waltz; City Of Brotherly Love: Jazz Ballad; Oasis: World Music Jazz; Redemption: Plena Lamento Jazz; San Juan De La Maguana: Merengue Jazz; Igor’s Mail; Verdura De Apio/The Real mcCoy: Bomba Yuba’ Jazz; Plena Drumline: Carnival.
Personnel: Papo Vazquez: trombone, shells; Willie Williams: tenor saxophone; Rick Germanson: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Alvester Garnett: drums; Anthony Carrillo: barriles de bomba (1,4,11), pandero de plena (2,8,12), darbuka/djembe (7), maraca/cua/coro (4,11), bells/snare drum (12); Carlos Maldonado: congas/cajón peruano (1), tympani/chinese gong (7), surdo; Candido Reyes: guicharo (2,3,12); Akua Dixon’s Quartette Indigo (7,8): Ina Paris: violin, Patrisa Tomassini: violin, Chala Yancy: viola, Akua Dixon: cello. Regina Carter: violin (7).
Papo Vazquez – Official Website: www.papovazquez.com
Label: Picaro Records
Release date: August 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama