|Ray Vega hated playing the trumpet at first. He’d seen the Machito Orchestra play in Central Park when he was 12 and right then and there decided he wanted to play the saxophone. Coming from the poorest Congressional district in the U.S. at the time, Vega was fortunate to have some help from school officials to get him into his school’s special music program. When the band instructor told Vega he had no saxophones, Vega reluctantly picked up his brother’s trumpet and started playing. At 13, Vega was being taught by trumpet master Jerry Gonzales and came to love his horn. Today Vega is one of the most engaging trumpeters in jazz and Latin music and has forged his own style of "Latin Bop," as he calls it, which is featured on his 2nd Palmetto Records release, Squeeze, Squeeze.
A native of the South Bronx, Vega is a veteran of salsa and Latin jazz bands of Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz and Mongo Santamaria to name a few. A multi-talented trumpeter, percussionist, composer and arranger, he presents Latin jazz from a refreshingly original and contemporary perspective and has established himself as one of the innovators of the new generation of Latin jazz players with his fiery brand of real New York Latin jazz - a fusion of jazz repertoire and Latin rhythms. Vega’s broad talents also brought him gigs with Joe Henderson, Maria Bauza, Chris Washburne, Pete Escovedo and Paul Simon. He was recently appointed a professor at the music conservatory at SUNY Purchase, where he conducts The Purchase Latin Jazz Orchestra and joins Jon Faddis and Jim Rotondi on faculty. Aside from leading his own band and releasing his own CDs, Vega is also the 2003-2004 Artist-in-Residence for the award-winning Cityfolk program in Dayton, Ohio.
For Squeeze, Squeeze, Vega called upon his long-formed working band composed of Bobby Porcelli, alto saxophone; Igor Atalita, piano; Gregg August, bass; Wilson "Chembo" Corniel, congas, chekere, percussion; and Adam Weber, drums and chekere. Vega’s band has been together for eight years now, a rarity in today’s music world, and performs weekly in New York City, honing their chops and their intuitive feel for each other.
Their innate grasp of the band as one family is evident on Squeeze, Squeeze, a CD named in fact for what Vega’s son Aaron says to his dad at cross lights: "Squeeze, squeeze, Dad!"