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Papo Vázquez Celebrates 40 Years…

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How many years has Pirates & Troubadours been in existence?

Papo Vázquez - BreakoutWe have been making music for about thirty-one years. My first band, Papo Vázquez Bomba Jazz, was created in 1984 in Puerto Rico. My second band recorded on Breakout (1991), I guess I was still using the Bomba Jazz name for that Band. The first time I used the name Pirates Troubadours was on my second and third CDs titled At the Point Vol.1 & 2 (1999). Then came Carnival in San Juan (2002), From The Badlands (2005) and the Grammy Nominated CD Marooned/Aislado (2007) and Oasis (2012).

This is a list of my different bands and the evolution of the band. As you can see, it runs the gamut, from small band Afro-Caribbean Jazz Groups to my Mighty Pirate Afro Puerto Rican Jazz 17 piece Orchestra and Dance Band. What’s not on the list is my Oasis Project, created in 2010, which is a multimedia piece that earned me a NEA Latino Master Award.

Someday I’d like to document it properly but that’s a big project. It’s a company of 27 performers that includes, Poets, Dancers, High Def Videos of Beaches from all over the world, guest artists, a string section, woodwind section, horns, 5 percussion players, etc.

Papo Vázquez - OasisThere’s also my suite Sube El Rio/ River Rising, which was commissioned by the Bronx River Arts Center that has never been recorded. Music commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center, my commissioned piece for the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra – Cimarrón. There is also all the commissions from the Arts Ensemble chamber orchestra. All of this work is part of the evolution of the Mighty Pirates Troubadours.

Congratulations on the world premier of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Pregones Theater in the Bronx. Tell me about the origin of the project, how it came about.

That’s a special project Associate Artistic Director, Alvan Colon commissioned on my behalf. Initially, I turned it down because I didn’t feel qualified. Once we sat down and he explained his vision I understood what he wanted, so I asked (pianist) Rick Germanson to help me out. It was a learning experience and it turned out very nice. Sometimes you have to have faith in the people that are steering you in a certain direction, but it can get pretty scary, especially when you are taken out of your comfort zone.

My compliments to the members of the quartet: Pianist Rick Germanson, drummer Joel Mateo and bassist Alexander “Apolo” Ayala Berrios. They were magnificent.

Any final thoughts?

I’d like to say, “Thank you,” to your readers. I believe the interview will give them some insight into our process and serve as an important source of information for anyone who is interested in learning more about our music.

Papo Vázquez Pirates Troubadours logoI have a final thought that just occurred to me. Some years back I interviewed you on the air for WFDU, 89.1 FM (Under the Radar). Towards the end of the broadcast you gave me a black baseball cap with Pirates Troubadours logo and a stern warning. As I recall, you said, “Once a pirate, always a pirate, there is no going back!” I still have the hat and wear it proudly.

On a more serious note, your discography, awards and commissions speak volumes. Congratulations on a long and distinguished career. Thank you!

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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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