Featured Album *****
Raw energy and elegant frenzy have been abiding concepts that drive the music of Papo Vázquez, who has thrown, together with his singular ensemble the Mighty Pirate Troubadours, every ounce of his ingenuity into this music. Chapter 10: Breaking Cover – consists of his burgeoning oeuvre and has all the makings of a high-water mark for the composer and trombonist’s stellar career. The “Breaking Cover” of the title refers to the band’s emergence into the pandemic lockdown to barrel their way into this new music, conceived and orchestrated by Mr Vázquez, of course.
His instrument – the trombone – is never very far from his lips throughout this blistering set, broken only towards the end of the disc to “weep” his way through an extraordinarily bittersweet ballad – “Shadows”, which is a soaring, doffing of the proverbial hat to his avowed heroes: John Coltrane and J.J. Johnson, a song on which the drummer Alvester Garnett also does yeoman service to with oh-so-eloquent brush-work.
In keeping with the element of forthright subterfuge suggested by the Breaking Cover of the title, the music is infinitely more explosive and only pauses for breath during the music of “Shadows”. While the spotlight shifts subtly from Mr Vázquez, who regularly switches the arc-lights to other members of his ensemble, The percussionists, predictably, carry the heaviest load. And they acquit themselves with outstanding energy that is always marked by extremely good taste. This is to say that the barriles are played with oodles of skill, always tempered by angularity and elegance often egged on by the resonance of Mr. Vázquez ‘s agogô bells.
True to form Mr Vázquez pulls out the stops in his music, weaving the traditional with his own singular take on it all. The disc’s mambo and rumba are signature tunes, each imbued with angular melodies, couched in exquisitely cultured harmonic conceptions. Both “NY Latin Jazz” and “No Te Rindas” are also packed with surprises. Vivid colours abound. As ever Mr Vázquez leads from the front. Most memorably, of course, Mr Vázquez revisits the inner rhythms of his beloved bomba, plena, cuembe and aguinaldo rhythms which light up the music each time he weaves the traditional Puerto Rican meters into the dancing music.
In the end we are left holding our collective breaths as we experience the work of a modern master traversing the extraordinary music of distinguished musical conventions, always inventing new ways to express the familiar life forms of a living tradition
Track list – 1: Mr Babu; 2: NY Latin Jazz Mambo; 3: El Cuco/The Boogeyman; 4: Saludo Campesino; 5: Fiesta en la Sanse; 6: Fairmount Park; 7: Shadows; 8: No Te Rindas; 9: Broke Blues
Personnel – Band of Mighty Pirates – Papo Vázquez: trombone, vocals, agogô bells and synthesizer keyboard; Ivan Renta: tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone; Rick Germanson: piano; Ariel Robles: bass and chorus; Alvester Garnett: drums; Carlos Maldonado: barril de bomba, pandero de plena, bongos, minor percussion and chorus; Reinaldo DeJesus: barril de bomba, congas, pandero de plena, minor percussion and chorus; Invited Guests – José Mangual Jr.: vocals, chorus [1, 4, 8] and bongo ; Dezron Douglas: contrabass ; Antonio Caraballo: guitar ; Antoine Drye: trumpet 
Released – 2020
Label – Picaro Records
Runtime – 49:05
Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours: Spirit Warrior
As an album, Spirit Warrior is conceived as a vehicle for the trombonist -a Philadelphia native…