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Papo Vazquez Pirates Troubadours: Carnival in San Juan

The current trinitarian Puerto Rican musical vanguard features two fine trombonists in Papo Vazquez and William Cepeda. (Saxophonist David Sanchez is the other P.R. player on the progressive edge.) Carnival in San Juan (CuBop), arguably Vazquez’s best recording to date, marinates jazz in familiar music from New York City, Cuba and Puerto Rico in rather unfamiliar ways. As usual, Vazquez’s writing is highly evolved and doesn’t lack imagination, scholarship, street bravado, drive or feeling. “En la Cueva de Tan” is an Afro-Caribbean jazz mini suite where a danza head prefaces a driving and sonorous Afro-Rican bomba break leading to a body of deep percussive and harmonic sumptuousness. Therein, Vazquez’s clearly toned percussive intensity frames veteran Mario Rivera’s Coltrane-ish soprano sax with Carlos Henriquez’s impressive bass distension. An Afro-Cuban coda rush led by drumming phenom Dafnis Prieto, followed closely by Milton Cardona’s best-documented quinto playing of his career, closes this expertly cut gem. Monk’s “Stuffy Turkey” is scorched in a bopping jazz quintet where, among many other places within, Vazquez’s remarkable chops are evident. This is quite an album.

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