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"Papo is one of the premiere trombonists on the scene today... What you get for the buck is pure unmitigated jazz on the Latin side, or what I like to call jazz con clave?"
Born on February 24th, 1958, Vazquez grew up in the heart of North Philadelphia's Puerto Rican community. After buying a $5 trombone from a friend's brother, Vazquez joined his elementary school band. Later he was introduced to the vibrant music and popular Latin dances of the 1950s and 1960s by his family. Inspired by Latin trombonists such as Barry Rogers, Jose Rodriguez and Willie Colon, Vazquez decided to become a professional musician at the age of 13.
By the early 1970s Vazquez had moved to New York and was playing with bands like Conjunto Libre and Hector Lavoe. Before long he was working with top names in Latin music like the Fania All Stars, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades, Chucho Valdez and Tito Puente. He even appeared on Willie Colon's landmark release "Siembre".
Vazquez has always been deeply moved by jazz and specifically cites the music of John Coltrane and J. J. Johnson as having the most influence. He studied Slide Hampton and later arranged and performed for Hampton's "World of Trombones". Eventually, Vazquez would tour Europe with the Ray Charles Orchestra and perform in New York with jazz luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Woody Shaw, Mel Lewis, Pharoah Sanders, Wynton Marsalis, Lonnie Smith and Lenny White. His involvement with Hilton Ruiz, Dave Valentin and Jerry Gonzalez placed Vazquez as a key player in the burgeoning Latin jazz genre.
In the 1980s Vazquez travelled the globe. He played with Batacumbele in Puerto Rico from 1981 to 1986. Batacumbele were one of the most innovative and popular Latin fusion bands of the time. He wrote for Orquesta Nacional Jovenil de Puerto Rico. Later on he travelled as principal trombonist for Tito Puente and toured Europe with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra.
Vazquez' ability to fuse Afro-Carribean rhythms, especially those from Cuba and Puerto Rico, with freer melodic and harmonic elements of progressive jazz has insured his popularity on many fronts. He played on Ruben Blades award winning salsa albums, on the soundtrack to Spike Lee's "Mo' Better Blues" and on "The Mambo Kings". Vazquez most recent appearances in movie soundtracks includes a slot on the "Thomas Crown Affair" with the Chico O'Farrell Orchestra. He also appears on O'Farrells latest recording "Heart of an Angel" for Milestones and Milton Cardonas new recording "Cambucha" on American Clave. In the 1980s Vazquez took his bands to jazz festivals in New York, Puerto Rico, Houston, and Philadelphia. He returned to Puerto Rico in early 1999 and was an integral part of the Dockers Khakis-sponsored Mambo Madness tour which took place in the summer of 1999. The year 2000 sees Papo making trips to South Africa for the North Sea Jazz Festival.