Ramón Vázquez Martirena
(Bassist, composer, arranger and producer)
Born on August 15, 1970 in the Cuban Province of Matanzas. From a very early age, like many Cubans, he had to flee his country and moved to Puerto Rico with his family, with the hope of making their dreams come true.
He began in music while still in middle school, where there was a student band. His first musical steps were with the triangle and the clave. After learning from his professor that the band needed a bassist, Ramón accepted the challenge and this way began his dedication to the study of his instrument.
Ramón graduated from the famed Escuela Libre de Música in 1989 with high honors. He studied the bass privately and participated in several workshops and seminars including: The Manhattan School of Music Summer Workshop, the Bass Summit at the National Guitar Summer Workshop, and for three years (1995-97) the Berklee College in Puerto Rico, where he was awarded for "Outstanding Musicianship" with a scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts. Ramón continued his musical studies at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music where he graduated in 1998 with a Bachelors of Music in Double Bass and Musical Education.
During his musical career, Ramón has worked as a private teacher. He has also taught at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and at the Music Department of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.
His talent and charisma have allowed him to work with a great number pop, jazz and classical artists, in and out of Puerto Rico; enabling him to become one of the most sought bassist in the local industry. He's had the gratifying opportunity to work next to some of the great performers of popular music, such as: El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Olga Tañon, Tony Vega, Enrique Iglesias, Eddie Santiago, Jerry Rivera, Lissette, Lucecita Benítez, Danny Rivera, Guillermo Dávila, Lourdes Robles, Gina María Hidalgo, José Nogueras, Andy Montañez and Wilkins, among others. Ramón also have included to his musical resume performances with the Costa Rica National Symphonic Orchestra, Puerto Rico National Symphonic Orchestra and the San Juan Pop. He has also participated in dozens of recordings, including Olga Tañón's Grammy Award winning album "Olga Viva, Viva Olga".
He has shared the stage with some of the best names in Jazz and Latin Jazz including: Chick Corea, Justo Almario, Hilton Ruiz, Paquito D`Rivera, Giovanni Hidalgo, Dave Samuels, Emil Richards, Horacio "El Negro" Hernández, David Sánchez, Néstor Torres, Dave Valentín, Joel Rossenblat, Jane Bunnet and Miguel Zenón, among others.
His interest in creating a space where jazz musicians can express themselves freely and enthusiasts enjoy the experience, stems from his passion for jazz. To address this need, Ramón produces "Las Noches de Jazz Heineken en el San Juan Mariott" (Jazz Nights at The San Juan Marriott-Heineken Jazz Concert Series) in collaboration with Juan Carlos Vega of A-Z Music Corp. Every Wednesday, at the " San Juan Mariott Resort & Stellaris Casino", jazz fans gather to hear good music performed by some of the most gifted masters of the genre from Puerto Rico and other countries.
Ramón recently completed his first recorded album titled "On The Move". For this musical project he teamed with pianist Yan Carlos Artime, drummer Henry Cole, saxophonist Alejandro Avilés and special guests: saxophonists José "Chegüito" Encarnación, percussionists Paoli Mejías and Cándido Reyes, drummers Alex Acuña and Héctor Matos, vocalist Eddie Wakes, pianist Amuni Nacer, guitarist Ramón "Moncho" Ríos and violinist Paola Vázquez. On The Move was released on October 7, 2003.
Recording NOTE: This recording was made without "click tracks". Most of the songs were recoded in "one take", with the exception of Caravan and "La Varita Mágica", which due to the different "over dub" elements, could not be recorded live.
April - This theme is a complex melody by pianist Lennie Tristano based on the harmonic changes to the classic "I'll Remember April". Originally, the idea for playing it as a "Bomba Sicá" (Puerto Rican folk style with African roots), came from sax player Miguel Zenón. Ramón added an intro played in unison by the bass, piano and sax. He also incorporated a vamp with an oriental sounding mode (dom7 b9 b13).
Eso Na Má - This theme, authored by Alejandro Avilés, is a type of "Cha Cha Cha" in an "Odd Time Meter" (13 beats). In it, there's a lot of playing around with the "Tumbao" and syncopation within a very traditional harmonic progression used in the "Cuban Son". The title is Spanish slang which could be translated to English into something like "S'All".
Monk's Changüí - (Adaptation of "Rhythm A' Ning" by Thelonious Monk). For this adaptation, the cuban rhythm "Changüí" was used. Here the band plays with the classic syncopation often giving the impression that the downbeat is out of place. The solos are played over a traditional rhythm changes progression.
Lagrimas Negras - A classic from the Latinamerican song repertorie, by Miguel Matamoros. If translated literally, it means "Black Tears". This interpretation is done in what can be called a Latin Fusion or Latin Jazz style quite similar to a "Cha Cha Cha". This theme was recorded on the first take, without any rehearsals, and as a matter of fact, this "first take" on the theme, marked the very first time the three musicians (ever) played together.
La Varita Mágica - "The Magic Wand", is an original by Ramon Vázquez and Yan Carlos Artime, which is performed as a "Danza Puertorriqueña" which for most of the theme adheres to its very traditional style, except for the "C" section, where there is a sax solo by Cheguito Encarnación. Here the harmony is changed a bit to highten the dynamics of the soloist. There is also a musical conversation between the electric bass, played by Vázquez, and the melody, interpreted on violin, by his nine year old daughter Paola.
Caravan - This theme by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, is given a Funk treatment, with a bass line reminiscent of Tower of Power, and keyboards influenced by Herbie Hancock's funk recordings. Vocalist Eddie Wakes, and Jochi Rodriguez on trumpet, are the featured soloist.
Campanitas de Cristal - This version of the timeless classic by Rafael Hernández is done in the very traditional cuban style of "Guaguancó" (one of the roots of salsa). There are some very interesting textures created here since the instrument combination is a quite an unsual one (tenor sax, acoustic bass and congas). At the end the trio turns it into an Afro rhythm which eventually "fades out".
Loro - Brazilian theme by Egberto Gismonti with a complex melody. It too has a peculiar enssemble, this time made up of piano and acoustic bass, enhanced by a puerto rican Güicharo (percussion instrument made from a type of gourd with horizontal slits, which produces a high pitched scrape sound not too different from the sound of a cajun washboard). This instrument combination gives it what in Puerto Rico we call a "criollo" flavor.
Negrele Blues - This theme also composed by Vázquez follows the form of a Traditional Jazz Blues. It is played in an "Acoustic Funk" style which later shifts to "Straight Ahead Jazz".
by: Richard Roberge