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Papo Vázquez Celebrates 40 Years…



Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours - Spirit WarriorTell me about the repertoire.

Here’s a rundown of the tunes.

Huracán (Hurricane) is a fast plena. It’s a different twist on what we have come to know as descarga, using the rhythms of the plena as a base, with a bridge.

El Morro is a “Sica” and it has an Arabian melodic feel. I guess there were some melodic ideas from (the album) Oasis (2012) that seeped into the composition. At first, I thought of calling it El Moro, like the Moor (s) because of the Arabian melodic concept but I finally decided on El Morro in honor of San Felipe, a fort in old San Juan, Puerto Rico. That “sica” rhythm has a powerful drive, it feels like an army or a fleet of ships coming to attack. When I listen, I can easily imagine cannon blasts. It is one of the most descriptive compositions.

Bumbo con Bamba was inspired by the “Punta de Clavo”, similar to the way plenero Marcial Reyes played. According to El Maestro Anthony Carrillo, “We created another version of plena.” We call it, “Plena Pirata.” Bumbo was a Pirate’s drink, made with rum, water, and cinnamon; Bamba was a good friend who loved being around musicians.

The Little People is a very simple composition that sounds like a children’s song. It starts out as a “Danza” then goes into a medium “jazz swing.” It also reminds me of Christmas, the holidays.

The Mole is a “jazz waltz,” which, for some reason, reminds me of a spy movie.

No Goodbyes for You (for Hilton Ruiz). Hilton was a very good friend and an early influence, when I moved to New York from Philadelphia.

The tune is heartfelt and moving. Tell me about your relationship with Hilton.

Hilton RuizI remember visiting Hilton at his apartment in Manhattan with my good buddy Miguelito Colón, a genius musician and trombone player, also no longer with us. Hilton was one of my heroes since my arrival in New York in 1975. He was playing with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and I would sneak into the Vanguard to listen to the band. The fact that he was Puerto Rican was a source of inspiration. It gave me something to strive for. Before I left Philadelphia, mentor Jimmy Purvis said, “What you need to do is get a gig with Thelonious Monk, and then you’ll be accepted.” Man, what a tall order! I guess the best I was able to do was hook up with Hilton.

Here is one of the many stories I have about Hilton Ruiz. I go visit him, and he had just recorded a new record and he plays one of his original compositions on the piano titled, Message from the Chief. I said, “Man you can’t play that on the trombone!” And he responded, “Slide Hampton was the one who recorded it.” Thanks, Hilton!!! At the time, I was unaware of the fact that Slide would become my teacher. In my humble opinion, I believe that Hilton Ruiz was the greatest Puerto Rican Jazz piano player, ever.

Salto Angel is a tribute to Venezuela, the first country I visited outside the U.S. as a member of Larry Harlow’s band in 1975. Since then, I’ve traveled there as a soloist and with different bands, many times.

Palo Incao is a tribute to the birthplace of my father and grandfather (Palo Incao, Barranquitas, Puerto Rico). It gives me a melancholy feeling, a place in time that no longer exists or something we have lost.

McCoy (for Mc Coy Tyner) – I have always loved McCoy Tyner’s piano playing. There is a bass and piano vamp that reminds me of McCoy.

Papo Vázquez - At The Point Vol 2In This Lonely Place was previously recorded as an instrumental on the recording At The Point Vol. 1 or Vol. 2. We play it once in awhile, it has evolved into what you hear now.

According to your wife, you composed the tune as a Valentine’s Day gift.

My wife had been after me for years to record it! I would always say no-no-no-no! Once in a while I would sing it at gigs to make her happy, but I don’t consider myself to be a singer. Now let’s be totally honest, Jack Teagarden, Billy Eckstine were all great singers, of course, the one, and only Louis Armstrong.

Roller Coaster is a Blues with “Bomba Holandé” as a base.

Despedida is an “Aguinaldo Fajardeño”, which is the music that was part of my musical surroundings at a very young age. My grandfather, father, and uncle were all troubadours. “Jibaro” music seeps into my music.

Kerepakupai Vena’ is the indigenous name of Salto Angel. I wanted to finish the recording with mother earth talking to us. Here is the landscape of Kerepakupai Vena’. Despedida fades into Kerepakupai Vena’ leaving city dwellers behind.The main actors in this piece are the Waterfall, Forest and the creatures that live in it. That low sound you hear is the heart of the dragon that has fallen in the middle of the forest and is slowly dying. Those are his final breaths. On top of the waterfall is the Arch Angel Gabriel playing his horn in triumph over good and evil. At the end is the Shaman singing the song for the Cascade or Waterfall (Canto de Cascada).

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jeff Jones, “The Jedi Master”. He’s the man who spends hundreds of hours bringing our ideas to life.

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A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Álvaro Rodríguez Mcausland

    Apr 29, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    I greatly enjoy all that your write on your column about life and happenings of the musicians and performances on video .- A hug and handshake for all of you.- Best wishes, Álvaro Rodríguez Mcausland- – Barranquilla-Colombia

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