East-West Trumpet Summit is a rollicking showcase for longtime friends Ray Vega and Thomas Marriott. Vega, a New York native and the elder of the two, has served for many years as a mentor to Seattle's Marriott. The two first met when Marriott was a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, and Vega was in town touring with the late Tito Puente. Friends ever since, the two trumpeters share an affinity for hard-blowing, grounded-in-bebop jazz. New York pianist Travis Shook and the Seattle rhythm team of bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Matt Jorgensen round out this exceptional set ...read more
It's usually a bad thing to review a musician's live show and not own at least one of his records. Especially when his discography as a sideman is easily accessible in most record shops. Unfortunately, I do admit this was the case for myself in going to review Ray Vega's Latin Jazz Quintet at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club. Luckily the following day, his publicist sent me his most recent record on Palmetto Records, and since the show I was actually so inspired that I, a jazz critic, went out and purchased his first effort on Palmetto pa'lante.read more
Ray Vega illustrates what is most attractive about Latin jazz—that is, its inextinguishable spirit and rhythm. And I mean rhythm. From the get-go, Squeeze Squeeze is a Latin love fest, replete with the complex percussion necessary to support the orgy of cross- and counter-rhythms generated by the head" musicians. Right out of the chute, Mr. Vega crackles like a young Dizzy Gillespie on Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile," spitting a blue flame of notes in his well-constructed solo. He can also be as tender as hot, as is evident on the McCoy Tyner ballad, Contemplation." Mr. Vega is able to convey ...read more
Trumpeter Ray Vega is a triumphant example of a musician liberated rather than straightjacketed by his Latin jazz expertise. Years of playing in bands as notable as Tito Puente's and Mongo Santamaria's clearly have reaped rewards in terms of his bright, rhythmically punchy, powerhouse delivery. Vega's own description of his current style as Latin Bop" accurately describes his second disc as a leader on Palmetto. The bow to bop is made perfectly clear by his covers of Wayne Shorter's Black Nile" and McCoy Tyner's Contemplation." In both instances the Latin accents and tone colors—and I hear Dizzy Gillespie's ...read more
Ray Vega’s Pa’lante is neither extraordinary, nor ordinary. His sextet has nothing to prove except for the fact that they belong squarely in the midst of mainstream New Yorker jazz with an above average Hispanic zing.
Vega’s trumpet playing is tight and clear-cut, as is all music under his care. As a leader, he elicits the same type of feel and performance from the members of his team, whether live or in a recording studio, and his arrangements and compositions do not lag behind. Those who have attended his gigs would attest to these facts. Those who have not, can ...read more
Bronx-born trumpeter Ray Vega brings some hefty credentials to the forefront, after having played with the crème de la crème of Latin jazz stars such as the late Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, and others. On his third recording as a leader, the trumpeter and his musical associates enliven the Latin jazz genre via a roots-oriented focus and a recognizably modish perspective.
Vega and top-flight alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli supply a powerful frontline attack, while the sextet investigates salsa, jazzy choruses, two-bar rhythms (clave), and more. The soloists’ melodies guide the rhythm section through creative spins on Duke ...read more
On Boperation, his second release for Concord Picante, Ray Vega pays homage to the pantheon of legendary bop trumpeters from Diz to Brownie, Fats to Miles — and does so with an invigorating Latin twist. In most cases, the songs chosen were not only played by the trumpeters in question but written by them as well. The exceptions are Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not” (for Art Farmer), Gigi Gryce’s “Social Call” (for Donald Byrd) and the standard “Tangerine” (for Chet Baker who, unlike the others, seldom wrote anything). Vega doesn’t try to imitate anyone, which would be pointless and also unnecessary, ...read more
Viva La Musica. Pregnant with percussion, Boperation is a standards light beam passed through a Latin prism. The result is an infectious salsa slant on hallowed music ably directed by trumpeter Ray Vega. Vega chooses carefully songs composed by ostensibly his greatest influences if not those he recognizes for the necessary artists the are (were). His tone is at once Miles, Birks, and Clifford. Oh, how brilliant and what a start to hear, like a dream where you talk on the phone with that long gone relative you loved so much.
I Bow to You... There are some things expected ...read more
Before Boperation, trumpeter Ray Vega's second Concord Picante disc as a leader, I knew nothing about the man or his music. But my inattention or inappropriate disregard shifted dramatically within the first few notes of this disc. Even if you've known all along about Ray's previous self-titled disc - or his higher profile work with Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Joe Henderson's big band or the Bronx Horns - Boperation grabs your ears and holds on.Here, the 38-year-old South Bronx Puerto Rican has lovingly assembled a program in tribute to his trumpet forefathers. The result amounts to a collection ...read more
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."read more
Ray Vega’s Latin jazz tribute to bop trumpeters includes dedications to Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Henderson, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Woody Shaw, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, and Lee Morgan. True, he missed a few, but the tune selection – each played with a fresh twist – represents some of the best from these past 50 years. Vega plays forcefully, but without an edge. His articulation is rounded in such a way as to appear legato and lax, while the trumpeter’s tone quality appears stuffy and without brass overtones. Saxophone and trumpet ...read more
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