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On Boperation, trumpeter Ray Vega infuses 12 classic bop tunes with a Latin-jazz spin. All of these tunes were made famous by Vega's trumpet heroes, and his new renditions are terrifically rhythmic.
Lead trumpeter in Tito Puente's band for the past six years, the 38-year-old Vega has also worked with Paul Simon, Mongo Santamaria, and Joe Henderson. This native of the South Bronx succinctly explains his musical vision in Concord's press material: "I came up in the tradition of the great salsa bands, so I want to take those elements and put them under the heading of jazz."
Boperation is laden with funky beats and sophisticated improvisations. The solos are cerebrally satisfying, and the beats will hit you where you live.
In Vega's capable hands, Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works" becomes a danceable samba, Clifford Brown's "Dahoud" a pulsing excursion in Cuban-tinged bop, and "Mr. Kenyatta" a swinging Latin joyride featuring Steve Khan on acoustic guitar. Vega also covers tunes written or performed by Miles Davis ("Blue In Green/Four"), Freddie Hubbard ("Hub-Tones"), Kenny Dorham ("Lotus Blossom") Fats Navarro ("Boperation"), Chet Baker ("Tangerine"), and Donald Byrd ("Social Call"), among others.
Another high point is Joe Locke's breakneck turn on vibes on Woody Shaw's fast-paced "Stepping Stone," a tune on which Vega also delivers an intricate performance. Vega also plays soulful flugelhorn on Art Farmer's graceful "Whisper Not."
With Boperation Ray Vega generates a creative and upbeat tribute to his trumpet forebears, while showing off his own considerable talents as a Latin-jazz improviser.