WBGO Radar

Donald Vega: "With Respect To Monty"

donald vega

I once referred to pianist Donald Vega as the most well known unknown on the New York jazz scene. His story demands attention - emigrating to the U.S. At 14, following classical studies in his native Nicaragua. Vega was one of the lucky ones who had a chance to interact with Billy Higgins at The World Stage. Higgins would play Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, prodding Vega to discover their identities on his own. This drive would lead Donald to Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard. He would follow Mulgrew Miller into the Ron Carter Trio, and record with Claudio Roditi, Clarence Penn, Bennie Wallace and  Francisco Aguabella.

On his own recordings, Donald chose to interpret the work of Jobim, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Monty Alexander and Scriabin, mixing in his own creations. Vega's "Spiritual Nature" release had him with bassist Christian McBride, drummer Lewis Nash, guitarist  Anthony Wilson and violinist Christian Howes.

Donald Vega's "With Respect to Monty", a celebration of the creative spirit of Monty Alexander, reunites Donald with drummer Nash and long time guitar friend Anthony Wilson. This time on bass it's Hassan Shakur, for some time the bottom line choice of Alexander himself in his working bands.

On this release you'll hear all the technical skills for sure. But just like Alexander, it's the rhythmic runs and interplay with the others that keeps your attention. Alexander favorites like "Eleuthra", "Slippery" and "Mango Rengue" keep their animated "isledentities". Vega's respect to Monty incorporates a bluesy patience for tunes like Milt Jackson's "Compassion" and Monty's "Renewal". Alexander's "Sweet Lady", from his triple treat days with Ray Brown & Herb Ellis has the same glow here.

Vega's "The Gathering" is a great closer here. Says Vega, "It's the kind of no nonsense tune Monty would write, a swingin' fun bit of the blues."

"With Respect to Monty" from Donald Vega comes out July 7th on Resonance Records.

Gary Walker, WBGO Music Director

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