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Papo Vazquez

Winning Spins By George Kanzler Click on the cover of Hot House above to read the full article 

Arguably, the most versatile horn in a jazz ensemble is also closest in range to the human voice. The trombone has been part of bands from the music’s beginnings in New Orleans, as a tailgate and gut bucket eccentric as well as a low voice in group polyphony. In the swing era, Duke Ellington’s bands highlighted varied styles in the section he called “the slippery horns,” including clarion open tones as well as vocalized wah-wah sounds achieved with plunger mutes. And the trombone-playing bandleader Tommy Dorsey embraced a romantic, smooth, flowing, dance-floor style on the instrument. Two trombonists with very different approaches and aesthetics lead the pair of recordings considered here.

Ryan Keberle has played in prestigious big bands—he actually leads his own this month in New York City—but his groups tend toward the quieter, chamber jazz side of things. His Catharsis Quintet features a guitar and a female vocalist. And the album reviewed here teams Ryan up with pianist Frank Woeste and cellist Vincent Courtois in an ensemble named Reverso, that melds jazz with tunes inspired by classical composers. Papo Vázquez takes a more robust approach to his slippery horn, bringing the bebop and post-bop of J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller into the rhythmically charged realm of Latin Jazz, putting a decidedly Afro-Caribbean spin on music presenting hard-bop-inspired solos.

Chapter 10: Breaking CoverPapo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours (Picaro), features a hard-bop-like front horn line of Papo’s trombone, Ivan Renta’s tenor or soprano sax, and, on three tunes, Sherman Irby’s alto sax. Pianist Rick Germanson, another musician schooled in post-bop/hard bop jazz, leads a rhythm section with bassist Ariel Robles and drummer Alvester Garnett. They are joined on most tracks by three Afro-Latin percussionists who also sing—Carlos Maldonado, Reinaldo DeJesus, and Jose Mangual Jr. The rolling, roiling Afro-Latin rhythms infuse lively pieces like “Mr. Babu” and “NY Jazz Mambo” with spirit and drive. Highlights of the CD include “El Cuco/The Boogeyman,” with a bomba beat from Puerto Rico under a hard bop theme inspiring heated solos from a jaunty Papo, fervid Ivan (tenor), and flowing Sherman (alto), and “Fairmount Park,” inspired by the famous landmark in Papo’s hometown of Philadelphia, its churning rhythms enhanced by guest guitarist Antonio Caraballo. A cowbell and vocal chorus add Hispanic flavor to “Saludo Campesino.” But Papo foregoes the percussionists and Afro-Latin beats on “Shadows,” a ballad for his trombone and the rhythm trio, and on “Broke Blues,” in straight 4/4 with solos from Sherman (alto) and guest trumpeter Antoine Drye, as well as Rick (piano). 

Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours come to Chelsea Table + Stage on Dec. 1.

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Ryan Keberle

Winning Spins By George Kanzler Click on the cover of Hot House above to read the full article

Arguably, the most versatile horn in a jazz ensemble is also closest in range to the human voice. The trombone has been part of bands from the music’s beginnings in New Orleans, as a tailgate and gut bucket eccentric as well as a low voice in group polyphony. In the swing era, Duke Ellington’s bands highlighted varied styles in the section he called “the slippery horns,” including clarion open tones as well as vocalized wah-wah sounds achieved with plunger mutes. And the trombone-playing bandleader Tommy Dorsey embraced a romantic, smooth, flowing, dance-floor style on the instrument. Two trombonists with very different approaches and aesthetics lead the pair of recordings considered here.

Ryan Keberle has played in prestigious big bands—he actually leads his own this month in New York City—but his groups tend toward the quieter, chamber jazz side of things. His Catharsis Quintet features a guitar and a female vocalist. And the album reviewed here teams Ryan up with pianist Frank Woeste and cellist Vincent Courtois in an ensemble named Reverso, that melds jazz with tunes inspired by classical composers. Papo Vázquez takes a more robust approach to his slippery horn, bringing the bebop and post-bop of J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller into the rhythmically charged realm of Latin Jazz, putting a decidedly Afro-Caribbean spin on music presenting hard-bop-inspired solos.

Reverso: Live, Ryan Keberle, Frank Woeste, Vincent Courtois (Out Note), features this unusual trio playing original music inspired by the 20th-century French composers known as Les Six, and recorded live at Le Triton in Paris. A slow, brooding piece, “Exemplar,” opens the CD with the three creating a fine mesh of interconnected melodies. “Absinthe” begins with a pizzicato intro from Vincent, then a soaring trombone lead over piano and arco cello to a coda with muted trombone. Ryan also employs lightly muted horn on “Blue Feather,” a bright, rhythmic tune more jazz than chamber, beats from piano enforced by hand claps, the whole piece charged with rhythmic energy. Two other tracks rely on rhythmic drive. “Up North” is propelled by rolling piano under Ryan and Vincent, horn and strings rising to high registers. Frank’s introduction on “Clara” morphs into a beat-heavy theme echoed by trombone and cello, ending with all three soloing at the same time.

L’Arlequin lunaire,” the longest number, is also the one most indebted to Les-Six-inspired ideas. A piano intro leads to shimmering lines voiced by Ryan, Vincent and Frank, with one of them (Frank or Vincent) adding a vocal line. Instead of building momentum, the piece slows down for a haunting, resonant trombone solo over intricate backgrounds. It is a track well worth hearing again to discover new angles and nuances.

Much of the material on Reverso: Live originated on a studio album, The Melodic Line (Out Note). But between the studio version and Reverso, the musicians seem to have gained perspective and depth from performing the music, making this album a much richer representation of the repertoire.

Ryan Keberle’s All Ears Orchestra appears at The Jazz Gallery, Dec. 2.

Photo Credit: Briene Lermitte

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Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito D’Rivera: Global Jazz Citizen By Eugene Holley, Jr Click on the cover of Hot House above to read the full article

The multi-Grammy-Award-winning, NEA Jazz Master saxophonist/clarinetist/composer Paquito D’Rivera brings the music of the Americas—be it jazz, Latin or classical—to the Jazz Forum in Tarrytown, N.Y. Paquito leads a quicksilver quintet consisting of American drummer Eric Doob and pianist Alex Brown; New Zealand bassist Hamish Smith; and Argentinian trumpeter/valve trombonist Diego Urcola, who worked with Paquito for 30 years. Like his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie—who helped the saxophonist defect from Cuba in 1980 and featured him in his last major ensemble, The United Nation Orchestra—Paquito’s choice of a global group reflects a commitment to the diversity required for a music of mixed origins.

I like playing with people from all over the world,” Paquito says from his New Jersey home. “Jazz was born in a country of immigrants. You don’t have to be Austrian to play Mozart. All you need is talent and dedication, and you can learn those rhythms, and the best music to add all of those elements together is jazz music.”

Paquito’s all-world, alto saxophone sound, which shaped two important 1960s and 70s Cuban groups – the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and Irakere – runs the gamut from Johnny Hodges to Charlie Parker and beyond; and his clarinet rings with Benny Goodman’s formidable fluency, as evidenced by Paquito’s eclectic setlist at the Jazz Forum. “We’ll be playing music from my 2015 CD, Jazz Meets the Classics, which may include Mozart, Chopin, Ernesto Lecuona and Bebo Valdés,” Paquito predicts. “We’ll also play some music from Diego’s latest CD, El Duelo (The Duel), including the title cut, written by Argentinian composer/pianist Guillermo Klein, “Una Muy Bonita” by Ornette Coleman, and something from Gerry Mulligan.”

El Duelo is inspired by Mulligan and Chet Baker’s pioneering 1950s-era, pianoless quartets, and features arrangements by Ethan Iverson, Jerry Gonzalez and Marquis Hill. Other selections from the record include a peppery rendition of Wayne Shorter’s “Sacajawea,” Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango,” an infectious take on Benny Golson’s “Stablemates,” a melodious mashup of Osvaldo Pugliese’s tango classic “La Yumba” with Juan Tizol’s Duke Ellington hit “Caravan,” and a clave-coded conjuring of “Bye Ya” by Thelonious Monk.

Without the support of a piano, musicians have to find new ways to be creative. “The sound and the feeling of the music is totally different,” Paquito observes. “It’s like swinging on a trapeze with no safety net. You feel more free [to improvise] but you must fill in all of those spaces that the piano covers. So it’s a combination of freedom and responsibility.”

The album was recorded in New Jersey during the pandemic, at a time when Paquito wasn’t able to play live venues but stayed active as composer. “I was lucky,” he says. “I received four commissions. I wrote ‘Concierto Venezolano’ for a wonderful trumpeter, Pacho Flores with the Orquesta Sinfónica De Mineria in Mexico City. I finished ‘The Journey’ for clarinet and orchestra, for the National Symphony Orchestra to be premiered by Yo Yo Ma. I wrote a piece for bass clarinet and cello, and I received a commission to write a jazz concerto for the New Jersey Symphony, for [French horn virtuoso] Chris Komer.”

I finished The Journey for clarinet, and orchestra for the National Symphony Orchestra to be premiered by Yo Yo Ma; I wrote a piece for bass clarinet and cello; and I received a commission to write a jazz concerto forthe New Jersey Symphony, for [French horn virtuoso] Chris Komer.

Another COVID-19-inspired invention is The Paq-Man’s Korner, Paquito’s online channel where he uploads interviews and conversations twice a month on YouTube and Facebook. His posts feature Colombian harp virtuoso Edmar Castañeda, the Spanish Brass Quintet, Cuban violinist Eduardo Coma, and a two-part tour of Paquito’s home, which contains dozens of miniature 1950’s-era cars, musical instruments, and a plethora of awards and citations. The channel also presents home-studio/Zoom-produced concerts and a five-part retrospective showcasing the music and the musicians who have enriched Paquito’s life, from Chucho and Bebo Valdés to Bach and the late Mexican composer Armando Manzanero. “The channel was my assistant’s idea—Juan Ruiz—a trumpet player from Colombia,” Paquito says. “He’s well-versed in the Internet thing. For me, it’s like Chinese [laughs]. We recorded some quality sounds and images through Zoom. Sometimes crises create positive things.”

With over a hundred recordings as a leader and a sideman, and a multifaceted career that crosses all musical and geographical boundaries, Paquito has created a multitude of positive music. As he wrote in his 2008 memoir My Sax Life, “I thank God and my father for the blessings which this marvelous profession has given me throughout my life.”

The Paquito Paquito Quintet with pianist Alex Brown, trumpeter/trombonist Diego Urcola, bassist Hamish Smith, and drummer Eric Doob, performs at the Jazz Forum, Dec. 3-4.

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Duchess

Duchess Perfect Harmony By Ken Dryden Click on the cover of Hot House above to read the full article