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Roland Vazquez


Composer/drummer/producer Roland Vazquez was initially introduced to jazz and Latin jazz while growing up in California. At a performance by the Mongo Santamaria Band in 1963, he decided to become a musician, primarily because of how that music moved him as a unifying social force. After high school, he worked in and around Los Angeles as a drummer with R&B and rock bands.
He began composing for his first jazz-fusion band in 1974 - eventually forming Urban Ensemble in 1976. As a member of Clare Fischer's band "Salsa Picante" (1978-81), he played on the Grammy winning album "Salsa Picante 2+2."

Roland's first international release, "Urban Ensemble: The Music of Roland Vazquez" (1979, Arista/GRP) was called "a decade ahead of its time" (Billboard). During the 1980's, 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 the albums which followed: "Feel Your Dream" ('82); "The Tides of Time" ('88); and "No Separate Love" ('91). These recordings, as well as "Best of the L.A. Jazz Ensemble" (a compilation of early California sessions), feature performances by a veritable "who's who" of East and West Coast contemporary jazz artists. All are available from RVCD - and through Amazon.com.
His most recent CD, "Further Dance" ('97) features the Roland Vazquez Quintet in an audiophile recording which includes an arrangement of a work (the title track) originally commissioned by Christopher Lamb (principal percussionist of the N.Y. Philharmonic) and Virginia Perry Lamb (pianist). Recorded "live to 2-track" (no overdubs, iso-booths, and/or board fades) by Todd Whitelock of Sony Music Studios; and co-produced by Shirley Walker (film-composer); "Further Dance" was called "a brilliant document" by jazz-writer Bill Milkowski (Audio). That same year, besides appearing in various venues up and down the East Coast, the Quintet was featured at the Victoria, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Montreal Jazz Festivals - and on a CBC "live" radio broadcast.

In 1999, Roland was commissioned by the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and Maestro Carmon DeLeone to compose a piece featuring the Cuarteto America (of Venezuela) as soloists. The result, "Ghost in the Mountain" (for string quartet & orchestra), was premiered by the IPO and broadcast on NPR in March, 2000. This work represents a symphonic reflection on the life of Emiliano Zapata, peasant hero of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

His other recent projects include the premieres and performances of his "Piano Analogies" (8 movements for solo piano) at CAMI Hall; the chamber pieces "Further Dance" and "The Blue Field" (for percussion and piano); and of his "Latin rhythmic chamber jazz" music for big band (Manhattan School Jazz Orchestra, U. of Michigan Jazz Band, U. of Cincinnati Big Band, Espoo Big Band, Roland Vazquez Big Band). He also co-produced Susan Botti's CD, "listen, it's snowing" (CRI), featuring members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Currently a Lecturer in Jazz and Improvisational Studies at the University of Michigan (Jazz Composition and ensembles), he was formerly a member of the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Faculty (1988 -1999): where he also taught ensembles and formed that school's first Latin Jazz Big Band. He has been recognized as a unique clinician by IAJE, ASCAP, and several major music programs, where he has directed concert/workshops of his music, lectured on the music business, and on the evolution of Afro-Cuban drumset. He lives with his wife, Susan Botti, and their daughter Isabel in Ann Arbor.

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