Donald Vega: Tomorrows (2008)
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Combined with a forward-looking mindset and an emotional depth not often found on initial offerings, Tomorrows has all the things that a debut should: breadth of style, fresh approach and intimacy that lets one get to know the artist. Pianist Donald Vega, who fled from Nicaragua, has faced much adversity in his young life and impresses with a positive lyrical style. He has wisely chosen to round out his trio with drummer Lewis Nash and bassist David J. Grossman. The former, with his well-known expansive melodic approach, is the perfect match for Vega's playing and Grossman, a member of both the New York City Philharmonic and jazz scene, gels things with precision and grace.
While cuts like the bouncy original opener "Wake Up!" swing hard, it is the ballads and interpretive melodic pieces that most impress. The title cut includes vocalist Maria Neckam, whose nouveau bossa timbre in combination with the trio becomes delicately powerful. The other overtly Latin piece is an exquisite reworking of Charlie Haden's danzon "Our Spanish Love Song." This lovely melody is beautifully reinterpreted yet maintains the integrative compositional strength of the original.
Both "Indian Summer" and "Nostalgia" at first seem somewhat out of place with their pensive look backward. The former touchingly reflects on boyhood memories and the latter includes gorgeous arco bass work that gives the tune its yearning quality. When taken as a whole, however, these tunes ground the optimism with authenticity. This allows for the progressive interpretation of Kurt Weill's "Speak Low," uplifting "The Will to Nurture," swinging sting of the "Scorpion" and overt romanticism of the "Butterfly Waltz." Yes, Vega can swing but his ability to coax emotion with a gentle touch and turn of phrase is all the more delightful and inspiring.
Track Listing: Wake Up!; Our Spanish Love Song; Indian Summer; The Will to Nurture;
Nostalgia; Speak Low; Tomorrows; Butterfly Waltz.
Personnel: Donald Vega: piano; Lewis Nash: drums; David J. Grossman: bass; Maria
Neckam: vocals (8).
Record Label: Imagery Records