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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 his plan throughout the miasma of shifting, humid rhythms.
Mr. Vega’s sextet is equally effective on the recording. The last number of years has seen the re-emergence of the little big band, nonets and dectettes. Ray Vega is further slimming down these numbers to produce a full-bodied sound. This is well illustrated in recent recordings by Joe Lovano, Martial Solal, and Carla Bley. The trumpeter’s band hits on all cylinders focusing on his Latin bop roots, highlighting the importance of percussionist Wilson Corneil and drummer Adam Weber. The recording, on the whole, is very accessible and absolutely infectious, betraying that secret of Latin culture: happiness. That is something we all should have.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.