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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 work out in unison quite a bit, but they stray out of tune with each other unnecessarily; particularly when Igor Byam picks up the alto or soprano sax.
Like a slow hot wind or up-tempo dancing a samba, the ensemble’s sound is always colored by the presence of electric bass, congas, and a clear percussive piano. While trumpet and sax provide most of the solo work, the program also includes several spotlights on piano, electric bass, guitar, and vibraphone. Joe Locke’s vibes influence plays a vital role, particularly on the band’s arrangement of Woody Shaw’s "Stepping Stone." While Lee Morgan’s forceful "Mr. Kenyatta" thrills, Vega’s tone simply will not ring out as would be appropriate. Use of the flugelhorn on "Whisper Not" as a tribute to Art Farmer fits precisely, but unfortunately the remainder of Boperation finds Vega’s trumpet in a Latin jazz vein, filled with mushy articulation and a dusky tone quality.