Tune in Wednesday, April 19th beginning at 8pm for The Night Beat with Doug Crane as he continues his month-long celebration of the trombone.

The trombone has always been regarded as a second-class citizen in the world of jazz.  Even jazz magazines that regularly dedicate an entire month’s issue to saxophones, pianos, drums, etc. rarely, if ever, do the same from the trombone.

April of course is Jazz Appreciation Month.  And the week of April 16th through the 23rd (yes, I know that’s eight days) is International Trombone Week.

To give the trombone its due, I’ll be featuring some of my very favorite trombonists every Wednesday evening throughout April on the Night Beat.

For Week Three on April 19th, we’ll feature two outstanding trombonists: Wycliffe Gordon, a fifteen-time honoree as Trombonist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association and NEA Latino Master Papo Vazquez.

Born in Georgia in 1967, Wycliffe Gordon grew up surrounded by music as his father was a church organist, pianist, and music teacher.  His interest in jazz began around 1980 while listening to jazz records inherited from a great-aunt including a collection of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens.

He was part of the Wynton Marsalis Septet from 1989 to 1995 and was an original member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Millions of National Public Radio listeners hear Wycliffe’s music every day in 1995 as he arranged the theme for the network’s afternoon news magazine All Things Considered which is still in use today.

Besides his own record dates for Criss Cross Jazz Nagel-Heyer and other labels, he’s appeared on recordings by Rene Marie, Dianne Reeves, Anat Cohen, Ricky Skaggs, Joe Henderson, Randy Sandke, Cyrus Chestnut and fellow trombonist Ron Westray.

Best known as a trombonist, Wycliffe also plays tuba, trumpet, soprano trombone, and didgeridoo.  He’s also an occasional (and quite distinctive) vocalist.

Angel Rafael “Papo” Vazquez was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1958.  At the age of five he moved with his parents to their native Puerto Rico. While living there, he became immersed in its music.  Returning to Philadelphia at the age of 13, he soon began performing professionally.  At 17, he moved to New York City where he began to work with Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, the Fania All-Stars and Hector Lavoe to name a few.

By the 1980s Papo had returned to Puerto Rico.  It was during this time he developed what has come to be known as Bomba Jazz, a blending of jazz and music styles native to Puerto Rico.

He became the principal trombonist in Tito Puente’s Latin Jazz Ensemble in 1985, recorded his first album as a leader in 1992 and was a founding member of the Lincoln Center’s since-disbanded Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.

His music has appeared in films such as “The Mambo Kings”, “Mo’ Better Blues” and William Shatner’s “Free Enterprise.”

Papo has recorded ten albums with his band “Mighty Pirates Troubadours” with the most recent release “Breaking Cover”.  It was recognized by NPR as one of the best Latin Jazz albums of 2020.


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