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Donald Vega: With Respect To Monty

Dan Bilawsky By

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When pianist Donald Vega put together Spiritual Nature (Resonance Records, 2012), he presented an arresting mix of music that shined a light on some of his influences. There was a touch of Scriabin in the mix, pointing to classical music; a nod to pianist Oscar Peterson by way of bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen's "Future Child"; a showing of respect toward mentor/employer Ron Carter via the bassist's "First Trip"; and, perhaps most tellingly of all, the inclusion of two numbers from pianist Monty Alexander's book.

Given that last piece of information, it should come as no shock that Vega decided to turn his attention fully toward Alexander's work and legacy on this followup date. The surprise is that the concept didn't originate with the pianist: George Klabin, the man-of-many-talents who founded Resonance Records, came up with the idea, but Vega proves to be the perfect pianist to see it through. On With Respect To Monty, Vega works with upbeat themes, swinging material, bluesy ideals, and Jamaican inflections. He handles all of it with Alexander-esque savoir faire. There's deep pocket swing and serious chops to behold on "Renewal," slow and smoky sounds to inhale on "3000 Miles Ago," and reggae thrown into the mix with "Slippery." Add to that the NOLA-meets-swing shifts on "You Can See," the calypso spirit of "Mango Rengue," and the gentle bearing of "Sweet Lady," and then you start to get a full picture of Vega's versatility and talent. Of course, the songs themselves, standing apart from the performances, say much the same about Alexander.

In putting together a project such as this, the choice of musicians should be a primary concern. Alexander always manages to find the right rhythm men—classy players who can gently caress a tune and then turn right around and swing like mad—so Vega needed to do the same. And with the selection of drummer Lewis Nash, bassist Hasaan Shakur, and guitarist Anthony Wilson, he did just that. When these four get going, you never know what's going to happen, but you know it's going to sound and feel great. Appealing tunes, engaging interplay, and strong soloing are all here for the taking. Who could ask for anything more?

Track Listing: Eleuthera; 3000 Miles; Compassion; Slippery; Consider; Mango Rengue; Renewal; You Can See; Sweet Lady; The Gathering.

Personnel: Donald Vega: piano; Anthony Wilson: guitar; Hasaan Shakur: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.

Title: With Respect To Monty | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Resonance Records

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