Grammy winning Latin Jazz Trumpeter to lead his New York based Quintet at the Vermont Jazz Center

Ray Vega and his Latin Jazz Quintet will perform at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro on Saturday, February 16th. Ray is one of the foremost Latin-jazz trumpeters in the world, an alumnae of the legendary ensembles of Mongo Santamaria, Mario Bauza, Ray Barretto and Tito Puente (includes three Grammy winning recordings). Appearing with Vega at the Vermont Jazz Center will be Zaccai Curtis on piano, Andy Eulau on bass, Diego Lopez on drums and Chembo Corniel on congas.

Ray Vega is one of the most accessible and generous people one could ever meet. Now a Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies at UVM, he's also in high demand as a guest artist, motivating young people in high school and college music programs. Ray grew up in the South Bronx where he found that having a strong musical identity gave him the self-confidence and respect to rise above the fray. He is a survivor who believes strongly in the power of faith and hard work, a communicator who knows that what has worked for him could be the missing piece for many others. He loves to share his inspiring stories and the response from young people is moving. Ray Vega has conducted master classes in trumpet performance, jazz improvisation, brass performance techniques and Afro-Caribbean jazz at many schools including the Manhattan School of Music, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, The Music Advancement Program at the Julliard School, The New School in NYC, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Notre Dame University/Lebanon. He has also served as Artist in Residence for the Flynn Arts Latin Jazz in Burlington.

As a teen in New York City during the fertile 70s, Ray was exposed simultaneously to the evolving Salsa (Latin dance music) scene and the explosive jazz scene. He studied with many masters, but two of Ray's main trumpet teachers, Jerry Gonzalez and Mike Lawrence, clearly represented two stylistically disparate approaches. For the Latin style he worked with Jerry Gonzalez, the mastermind of the seminal Latin Jazz group, "Fort Apache". Equally comfortable with trumpet and congas, Jerry recorded with musicians ranging from Cachao to Dizzy Gillespie and, along with his brother bassist Andy formed several of the most enduring and authentic Latin music ensembles ever assembled in the United States. Ray focused on jazz with Mike Lawrence, a young trumpeter discovered by Joe Henderson while he was attending the University of North Texas. Sadly, Lawrence's life was cut short in his mid 30s due to cancer, nonetheless he is a somewhat legendary figure, known for his consummate musicianship and breath-taking soloing. He can be heard on recordings with Henderson, Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock and Bob James. Ray also studied trumpet with jazzer Lonnie Hillyer and Afro-Caribbean percussion with Luis Bauzo.

Ray's own music demonstrates his chameleon-like ability to interpret and deliver the perfect trumpet sound and stylistic approach for each piece, In his album, Squeeze, Squeeze, one hears a distinct jazz ballad style on McCoy Tyner's soulful "Contemplation" and a markedly different classical tone on an original called "Sky!" He plays a straight-ahead jazz tone on the melody of Wayne Shorter's Black Nile and then muscles into a brash, over-the-top lead trumpet timbre; the slick arrangement of Black Nile includes a mambo section before the out-chorus. In fact, all the arrangements on this album (which is similar to the material he will play at the VJC's concert) contain seamless transitions from jazz-swing to a variety of hip, Latin rhythms. This is one of the defining factors of Vega's music: transitions that make sense and add to the complexity and interest of the music.

A musician's level can often be gauged by the leaders who hire them. Ray Vega is a veteran of some of the most illustrious bands of our time, both Latin and straight-ahead jazz. He performed with Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Mario Bauza, Luis "Perico" Ortiz, Hector LaVoe, Johnny Pacheco, Larry Harlow, Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez and Louie Ramirez to name a few. Ray has performed and/or recorded with Joe Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Mel Torme, Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Israel Lopez "Cachao", The Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, The Lincoln Center Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Paul Simon, Yomo Toro, Eddie Palmieri, La Orquesta Sinfonica De Simon Bolivar, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Bebo Valdez, and Celia Cruz, among numerous others.

Just as Ray Vega was snatched-up by demanding bandleaders as a youth, so too has he developed a steady quintet of dedicated musicians who match his concept and expertise. He's bringing with him his right hand man on congas, Wilson "Chembo" Corniel who has recorded on most of Vega's recordings as a leader. Chembo was a 2009 Grammy nominee who honed his skills at Boy's Harbor in New York and the prestigious La Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba under the direction of the great Chucho Valdés. Today, Chembo is considered as one of the top percussionists on the scene. He has toured throughout Europe, Asia, North & South America, and the Caribbean with Chucho Valdéz, Hilton Ruiz, Buddy Montgomery, Tita Puente, Machito, Toshiko Akyonshi, Jane Bunnett and Spritis of Havana, Bobby Sanabria, Chico Freeman, Chico O'Farrill, Blood, Sweat and Tears and many others.

The drummer for the group is Diego Lopez, who, after moving to the US from Milan Italy,found himself playing with some of greatest leaders in blues including Otis Rush, Junior Wells and Shirley Scott. He moved to NYC in 2000 and immediately established himself as a serious contender in the Latin jazz and jazz worlds including performances and recordings with Hilton Ruiz, Paquito D'Rivera, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jane Buttett, Dave Valentin, Dave Samuels, Diane Schurr, Gato Barbieri and Ray Vega

Bassist Andy Eulau has performed classical, blues, R&B, and jazz in concert halls and clubs on four continents. He can be found with a long list of artists, most notably Ray Barretto, Freddy Bryant, Chembo Corniel, Grant Green Jr., Junior Mack, and Bobby Sanabria. His recording credits include dates with the Bill Charlap Trio and the Anthony Braxton Quartet.

Vermont Jazz Center regulars might remember the pianist who will be appearing with the group because he was a featured last September with Donald Harrison's group. Zaccai Curtis performs with artists such as Ralph Peterson, Brian Lynch, Ray Vega, Wallace Roney,Cindy Blackman, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, Papo Vasquez, and many others. In 2001 he was commissioned to arrange Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol" to be performed by his 7 piece Latin jazz ensemble 'insight' with the Hartford Symphony Chamber Orchestra. From 2003 to 2006, Curtis was a winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer's competition. Zaccai and his quartet were selected by the U.S. State Department to be in the Music Abroad Jazz Ambassador program and, as such traveled the world, performing in Bangladesh, Calcutta, Bangalore, Mumbai, Sri Lanka and Maldives. In 2007, Zaccai was awarded the 'Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism's Artist Fellowship' for original composition. Zaccai currently performs his own music with his group 'Curtis Brothers quartet and heads his own record label 'truth revolution records.

On Saturday, February 16th at 8:00 PM, come enjoy a show at the Vermont Jazz Center that demonstrates the fusion of a mature rhythmical concept with beautiful melodies. Experience an evening of Latin Jazz like you've never heard it before, performed by expert musicians of the highest caliber. Ray Vega at the Vermont Jazz Center is made possible due to the generous support of Julian Gerstin and Carlene Raper. The VJC also thanks the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, The Hampton Inn of Brattleboro and VPR and WFCR.

Tickets for Ray Vega's New York Latin Jazz Quintet at VJC on February 16th are $20 for general admission, and $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts). Tickets are available at In the Moment Record Store in Brattleboro, online at or they can be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1 or purchased at the door.

Next up at the Vermont Jazz Center will be vocalist Karrin Allyson on Saturday, March 16th at 8 p.m.

Saturday, February 16th
8:00 PM
Vermont Jazz Center
General Admission $20.00, Students $15.00
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