“Has anyone here met Mr. Babu? He’s from Africa. He likes to dance with Elena, especially a good NY Latin Jazz Mambo. Pero cuando suena un solo de trombón le entra El Cuco, the Boogeyman! Pero con un Saludo Campesino se le va! Lo conocí en una Fiesta en la Sanse, and later on in Fairmount Park, where these sad Shadows overwhelmed me. Pero te dire que No Te Rindas, because if you do you’ll be whistling the Broke Blues. Eso te pasa for Breaking Cover during Chapter 10 of this pandemic Que sueño en Spanglish…despierta Boricua!?” Poem by George Rivera
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 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” is also packed with surprises. Vivid colors 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
Artist Website: http://www.papovazquez.com