Roland Vazquez

Jul 3, 2019

Roland Vazquez
Credit Roland Vazquez

Sunday Night Jazz Showcase

Program #258 (July 7 at 8:00pm)

Originally from California, composer/drummer Roland Vazquez decided to become a musician at a performance by the Mongo Santamaria Band in 1963. Soon after high school, he began working as a drummer with R&B and rock bands in and around L.A. He began the study of music at Pasadena City College and, while working mostly with touring R&B bands, he eventually completed his Bachelor of Music at Westminster College in Utah (75). Back in LA, he began composing for his first jazz fusion band - eventually forming the "Urban Ensemble" (76). As a member of Clare Fischer's all-star band "Salsa Picante" (78-81), he played on that groups Grammy winning "Salsa Picante 2+2."

After receiving an NEA Jazz Performance Grant in 1977, he decided it was time to record; his first international release, "Urban Ensemble: The Music of Roland Vazquez" (Arista/GRP79) was called "a decade ahead of its time" by Billboard Magazine. After moving to NYC in 1981, he continued to develop his "funky-salsa-bebop" style with unique compositions for octet, quintet, and big band. Many of these works are featured on his subsequent recordings "Feel Your Dream" ('82); "The Tides of Time" ('88); and "No Separate Love" ('91). These albums, as well as "Best of the L.A. Jazz Ensemble" (94) - a compilation from 1977 "Urban Ensemble" sessions - collectively feature performances by a veritable "who's who" of East and West Coast contemporary jazz artists.

While living and working in NYC, he was invited to attend Manhattan School of Music on a merit scholarship and received his Master of Music in 85. Later, as a member of the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Faculty (88-98), he taught Jazz Combos - and initiated a Latin Jazz Big Band in 97. Vazquez' '97 Quintet CD, "Further Dance" was possibly the first audiophile 20 bit "live to 2-track" Jazz CD; recorded by Todd Whitelock (Sony Classical) and co-produced with Shirley Walker (film-composer). "Further Dance" was called "a brilliant document" by jazz-writer Bill Milkowski (Audio).

Roland's compositions began to evolve away from commercial/jazz fusion formats and more towards chamber music during the early 90s; most notably his "Piano Analogies"; and then "Further Dance" & "The Blue Field" (commissioned by Christopher Lamb/ Principal percussionist of the NY Phil.). In 1999, The Illinois Philharmonic (Carmon De Leone, conductor) commissioned and premiered (2000) his "Ghost in the Mountain" (for string quartet & orchestra): a symphonic reflection on the life of Emiliano Zapata, peasant hero of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

In 2000, he and his wife (composer/performer/educator Susan Botti) accepted positions at the University of Michigan. While a Lecturer there ('00-'05), Roland taught Jazz Composition; established the first University of Michigan Latin Jazz Ensemble; and developed a new course for the American Culture wing of Ethnic Studies: "Intro to Latin Music"- a historical perspective of the music of the Afro Latin diaspora. In early 2003, he received a "Creative Artist" Grant from Michigan Council for the Arts to write & perform his Afro Latin Jazz suite "Music for Percussion Quartet & 3 Jazz Players."

During '05-'06, Roland and his family lived at the American Academy in Rome. Susan had won the Rome Prize in Music Composition - and Roland was in residence at the Academy as a Visiting Artist. During that year, he composed nine new works for Quintet & Sextet, toured with Roman composer/pianist Riccardo Fassi, and also performed with visiting US artists.

In 2007, Roland's family moved back to New York. He released "Quintet Live" - a compilation of '97 concert performances by his "Further Dance" Quintet. Roland (as percussion soloist) & Susan performed her "Jabberwocky" at the Disney Center in Los Angeles as part of the LA Philharmonic's "Green Umbrella" series.

In 2008 and 2009, the new Roland Vazquez Quintet (featuring Joel Frahm (saxes), Luis Perdomo (piano), Samuel Torres (percussion), & Hans Glawischnig (bass guitar)) appeared in concert around NY & premiered his recent compositions. Roland was also featured during that period as clinician/performer in residencies at the Eastman School of Music, Berklee School of Music, Ohio University, Montclair State, and University of Cincinnati Conservatory.

In July 2009, Roland received a Recording Grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc - to record six of his original scores & "Guarabe" by his inspirational mentor, Clare Fischer. That album "The Visitor" (RVD7007) was released June 29, 2010.

(provided by Roland Vazquez)