Trombonist, composer and arranger Papo Vázquez is celebrating 40 years into a career spanning the jazz, Latin, Afro-Caribbean and classical music and recording worlds.
Recent honors include an invitation by “The Presidents Own” US Marine Band to lead and direct the band on its first Afro Caribbean Jazz performance in the long history of this band, in Washington, DC.
In May 2013, was commissioned by Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and Symphony Space to compose new music for “Nueva Musica” concert series, in New York.
In 2011, was presented with a Latino Masters Award by the Pregones Theater under The National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces: Presenting program.
In 2010, was commissioned by Mr. Wynton Marsalis to compose a work inspired by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam, he conducted and performed with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Orchestra on The Jazz and Art concert.
In 2008, won a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Papo Vázquez’ Mighty Pirates 2008 recording Marooned/Aíslado.
In 2007, was commisioned by The Bronx River Arts Center to compose a new piece titled River Rising for their 20th anniversary.
Vázquez was born in 1958 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After spending his early years in Puerto Rico, he grew up in the heart of North Philadelphia's Puerto Rican community. He bought his first trombone from a friend for $5 and joined the elementary school band.
At the age of 14, an uncle recommended him to a local salsa band, where he met trumpet player Jimmy Purvis. Purvis inspired Papo’s lifelong passion for jazz by giving him two records: J.J. Johnson's Blue Trombone and John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard. By 15, Vázquez was performing with local Latin bands in Philadelphia and accompanying visiting artists such as Eddie Palmieri. At only 17, he moved to New York and was hired to play for trumpet player Chocolate Armentero's. Soon after began playing and recording with top artists in the salsa scene like The Fania All-Stars, Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Grupo Folklorico Nuyorquino, Eddie Palmieri, Larry Harlow, and Hector La Voe. Vázquez also became a key player in New York’s burgeoning Latin jazz scene of the late 1970's, performing with Jerry Gonzalez, Hilton Ruiz, and more. He began studying with Slide Hampton, eventually recording and performing for Slide Hampton's World of Trombones.
Vázquez went on to perform with jazz luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Mel Lewis, Mario Rivera, Hilton Ruiz and Milton Cardona, and to tour Europe with the Ray Charles Orchestra. By the age of 22, Vázquez had traveled the globe.