As we all know, the United States has been the birthplace of a large number of Latin music stars who are dedicated to this group of musical genres in order to stay true to their roots. Such is the case of Angel Papo Vazquez, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but much of his training occurred in Puerto Rico, so he has always had a very special connection with the Island of Enchantment.
As a 14-year-old teenager, it was his uncle who recommended him to the first band in which he participated. It was around this time that he met famed trumpet player Jimmy Purvis, who would be his biggest inspiration to focus on jazz and start to show interest in trombone. The following year, the boy had already acquired enough experience to perform with local orchestras and accompany renowned artists such as Eddie Palmieri.
A few years later, he decided to move to New York, where he would rack up most of his musical accomplishments to date. It was there that he performed and recorded along with some of the greatest Latin musicians such as Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón, Ray Barreto, Larry Harlow and many others. He was hardly 20 years old when he had already toured the world and showed his talent to all types of audiences he could find on the way.
His groups and orchestras
Another reason why he is so well known is for being one of the founding members of Ford Apache and Conjunto Libre de Jerry Gonzalez, but these are just some of the groups of which he was part. He was also in Tito Puente’s Latin Jazz Ensemble. It was with the King of Timbales with whom he achieved recognition as a lead trombonist and experimented a lot with jazz, a genre for which he was already fascinated at a very young age.
After all the experience gained so far, Vasquez was able to start merging certain Afro-Caribbean rhythms that allowed him to innovate in jazz and Latin music in general. He was based on many of the things he learned and heard in Puerto for this.
As early as the 1980s, Papo was mixing bomba jazz, which is basically a mix of jazz and traditional Puerto Rican bomba. In the 90’s, he recorded his first album as a bandleader and collaborated with a lot of Latin jazz artists who greatly appreciated his talent, resulting in great discographic works that are still remembered to this day. One of them was the one he made with certain New York personalities, which is a live recording that included the participation of recognized figures such as American saxophonist Michael Brecker, New York bassist Andy Gonzalez and many more.
This project was called Pirates & Trobadours – At the point Volume 1 and evolved as such that it include more musicians who had no trouble joining the trombonist in this adventure. The group that made the album did many tours and performed at music festivals all over the world. They were so successful that they continued to make new editions throughout the years. In fact, one of Vasquez’s latest albums was Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours – Chapter 10: Breaking Cover, which was released in 2020.
By: Johnny Cruz correspondent of International Salsa Magazine in New York City, New York