Papo Vázquez 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, Vázquez sculpts them there so that when they emerge it is as if Vázquez 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 Vázquez who leads the charge. He is, to use a fairly overused term, a complete musician. His ability to write wonderful melodies is enviable. However, Vázquez 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 Vázquez 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 Vázquez’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 Vázquez’s bone is breathtaking.
There is another side to Papo Vázquez as well and that is his immensely soft, emotional dimension. On music such as “City of Brotherly Love” Vázquez 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 Vázquez 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 Vázquez: 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 Vázquez: 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).
About Papo Vázquez:
Trombonist, composer and arranger Papo Vázquez is more than thirty-five years into a career spanning the jazz, Latin, Afro-Caribbean and classical music and recording worlds. Recent honors include an invitation by “The Presidents Own” US Marine Band to lead and direct the band on its first Afro Caribbean Jazz performance in the long history of this band, in Washington, DC. In May 2013, was commissioned by Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and Symphony Space to compose new music for “Nueva Musica” concert series, in New York. In 2011, was presented with a Latino Masters Award by the Pregones Theater under The National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces: Presenting program. In 2010, was commissioned by Mr. Wynton Marsalis to compose a work inspired by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam… Read more…
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