Artist in Residence, Music
Academic Program Affiliation(s): Music
Biography:Roland Vazquez is a composer, drummer, producer, and educator who has been performing and recording his original Latin rhythmic chamber jazz for quintet, nonet, big band, and chamber ensembles for more than 40 years. He first worked as a drummer with R&B and rock groups in and around Los Angeles. He began writing for his jazz-fusion bands during the mid-70s, receiving an NEA Jazz Performance Grant in 1977, which led to the production of Urban Ensemble—the Music of Roland Vazquez, which Billboard called “a decade ahead of its time.” During those years, he did multiple studio projects and performed regularly with his band and with other bands in and around California, including the Shirley Walker Trio, Don Randi & Quest, Willie Bobo, and Clare Fischer’s legendary Salsa Picante.
After moving to New York City, his recordings Feel Your Dream (’82), The Tides of Time (’88), No Separate Love (’91), and Further Dance (’97) featured music for quintet, tentet, and big band. During the ’80s and ’90s, Vazquez performed regularly at jazz festivals, colleges, and New York City venues such as Mikell’s, Seventh Avenue South, the Bottom Line, and Village Gate. He also taught jazz ensemble at the Manhattan School of Music, where he received his master of music degree. In 2000, he joined the jazz faculty at the University of Michigan, where he established and directed multiple ensembles. In 2003, he received a Michigan Arts Council Grant in support of his Afro Latin chamber suite Music for Percussion Quartet & 3 Jazz Players. Among other honors, he was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome (2005–06), where he composed and performed with various Italian and touring U.S. jazz artists; received a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music supporting his big-band recording The Visitor (2010), for which Jazz Times called him a “visionary composer of contemporary big-band jazz”; and, in 2014, the Grammy Award-winning Afro Bop Alliance received funding from New Music USA to record three of Vazquez’s large works, which were then released on their CD Revelation.
Vazquez currently teaches at both Bard and Vassar College. He also performs regularly with his ensembles at clubs, colleges, and jazz festivals.