b. 24 November 1947, Berdyansk, Ukraine. Vapirov studied clarinet at the Leningrad Conservatory and later became a professor of saxophone, pursuing parallel careers as an academic, classical saxophonist (with the Leningrad State Symphony Orchestra and the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre) and, increasingly, as a virtuoso jazz performer. Initially working with the jazz rock Music-Hall Orchestra in the late 60s, Vapirov rapidly broadened his repertoire to include all styles of jazz, from big band swing to the borders of free-form and contemporary composition. By the early 80s he had established himself as the leading saxophonist in the USSR, winning critics’ polls in the Russian jazz magazine Kvadrat (Chorus) and releasing Misteriya for jazz soloist and symphony orchestra, on the state-owned label Melodiya. Although he did not lead a regular group, he worked frequently with Sergey Kuryokhin (piano), Alexander Alexandrov (bassoon), Vladimir Volkov (bass) and Valentina Ponomareva (vocals).
In August 1982 Vapirov’s career was abruptly halted by a two-year prison term for ‘private enterprise’, but he was released before serving his full sentence, possibly because his records had started to appear in the West, on the London-based Leo Records. In 1986 he moved to Bulgaria, where he had strong family ties. A prolific and versatile musician, Vapirov’s recordings include improvised duos with Kuryokhin (Document) and pieces for a big band (Conspiracy), for tenor saxophone plus chamber orchestra (Macbeth) and a chamber jazz trio composition (De Profundis).