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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 influence on Vega—are mingled by edgy, fluttery runs bringing a most un-Latin ancestor to mind, Lee Morgan. This isn't to say that Vega doesn't have his own distinctive sound, but he's unafraid to reveal influences both close and far from his Latin roots.
Vega's band works well with his Latin bop focus, particularly percussionist Wilson "Chembo" Corneil and drummer Adam Weber. The title tune, one of four original compositions by Vega, is a tour de force of various Latin dance styles weaving in and out out of a funky bop theme. It evokes a street carnival atmosphere, a spontaneous joy, that permeates this highly playable and adventuresome session.
Track Listing: 1. Black Nile, 2. Smile, You're in Beirut, 3. Contemplation, 4. Ne Quitez Pas, 5. Squeeze, squeeze, 6. Both, 7. Salazar, 8. Sky! 9. Crescent Mood, 10. La Tercera
Personnel: Ray Vega, Boddy Porcelli, Igor Atalita, Gregg August, Wilson "Chembo" Corneil, Adam Weber
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.