Roland Vazquez – Try to Eliminate Fear

SKF NOTE: Roland Vazquez is Artist-in-Residence at Bard College in NY State. Here is the lead paragraph from his online Bard 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.

In 1981, drummer Roberto Petaccia introduced me to Vazquez, and his “Feel Your Dream” album, which followed Vazquez’s 1979 “Urban Ensemble” album. I remember listening to Vazquez and his band playing at a venue near Columbia University in NYC, and visiting him in his NYC apartment. It was – and is – unique, cooking music.

Petaccia went on to interview Vazquez for the July 1982 Modern Drummer magazine. This week I came across a few photocopied pages of Petaccia’s original Vazquez manuscript. It included Vazquez’s common sense advice on drummers interested in becoming music writers.

Roland Vazquez: “My suggestion to drummers that want to expand as writers is to pay attention and listen to the kind of music they like, eventually expanding into every area. But, really start out and spend a lot of time with the music they identify with.

“There is really so much to listen to and to play, but we can’t do it all. We have only so many years to spend on this planet, and we should pursue the things that move us, and that we could put movement into.

“Another suggestions is to try to eliminate fear. The first step to take toward achieving that is to not compare, other than to learn. Emotional comparison is bad. Intellectual comparison, for getting perspective on a style of playing or writing, is what we need to exercise.

“If you are emotionally about comparing your music to others, then fear of failing will take over. Once fear exists, you stop growing.

“What you believe in is what you are going to play. What you come up accepting about yourself is what you will express.”

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