Papo Vázquez Celebrates 40 Years…

Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours

Trombonist, Composer, Arranger, Papo Vázquez Celebrates 40 Year Anniversary and Musical Legacy and the Release of his Latest Album Spirit Warrior

“Although his name is not as heralded as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, or Fort Apache Band founders Jerry and Andy González, New York-based trombonist Papo Vázquez is as central to the development of Latin jazz as any of those legendary figures.” Ezra Gale –

Papo Vázquez was born, Angel R. Vázquez in 1958 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent his early years in Puerto Rico and grew up in the heart of North Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community.

By the age of fifteen, Papo Vázquez was performing with local bands in Philadelphia. At the age of seventeen he moved to New York and was hired to play for the legendary Cuban trumpet player, Chocolate Armenteros. Soon after, he began playing and recording with top artists in the salsa scene, such as The Fania All-Stars, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, and Hector Lavoe among others.

During the late 1970s Papo Vázquez was a key player in the New York’s burgeoning Latin Jazz scene. He studied with the legendary trombonist, Slide Hampton and eventually recorded and performed with Hampton’s World of Trombones. In addition, he went on to perform with jazz luminaries Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Mel Lewis, Hilton Ruiz and toured with the Ray Charles Orchestra. By the age of twenty-two Vázquez had traveled the globe.

Papo Vázquez is a founding member of Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band, Manny Oquendo’s, Conjunto Libre and Puerto Rico’s popular fusion band, Batacumbele. From 1981 to 1985 he performed and recorded several albums with the group. Upon his return to New York, he joined Tito Puente’s Latin Jazz Ensemble and traveled with the band as the principal trombonist and toured with Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation’s Orchestra.

Leader, Composer, Innovator

Papo Vázquez has always been deeply moved by jazz. He specifically cites the music of John Coltrane and J.J. Johnson as having the most influence on him. His appreciation and knowledge of the indigenous music of the Caribbean provides him with a unique ability to fuse Afro-Caribbean rhythms, specifically those from Puerto Rico, with freer melodic and harmonic elements of progressive jazz.

During his time in Puerto Rico with Batacumbele in the 1980s, he began to experiment with “Bomba Jazz,” a mixture of jazz and traditional Puerto Rican Bomba. In 1993, he recorded his first album as a leader titled, Breakout. He continued collaborating with a variety of Latin Jazz artists, contributing the tune, “Overtime” to Hilton Ruiz’s Manhattan Mambo and “Contra Mar y Mareo” for the album, Descarga Boricua Volume 1.

Interest in Papo Vázquez as a composer grew. It was the first artist to receive a composer’s commission for the tune, “Iron Jungle,” for the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, then a resident Jazz Orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The same year, through a grant from The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, Vázquez was asked to expand Pirates Troubadours, and was commissioned to compose music for a nineteen-piece, Afro-Puerto Rican Jazz Orchestra. The 2008 event was recorded live, resulting in Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Marooned/Aislado, which received a Grammy nomination for the Best Latin Jazz Album. Vázquez also shared his compositions with Panamanian vocalist, Rubén Blades (Tengan Fe/Antecedente), Hilton Ruiz (Overtime Mambo) and Dave Valentin (Tropic Heat).

Tomas Peña
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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  1. I greatly enjoy all that your write on your column about life and happenings of the musicians and performances on video .- A hug and handshake for all of you.- Best wishes, Álvaro Rodríguez Mcausland- – Barranquilla-Colombia


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