Miami-born Vega, assistant professor at Florida A&M University, returned to Chicago to record this, his first leader release. Vega had been active on Chicago's lively Latin jazz scene, notably with the cracking Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble during his years as a graduate student in the early aughts. He rejoins CALJE co-leader Victor Garcia for a sizzling and sophisticated set of 10 Vega originals.
Bass ace Josh Ramos anchors the metrically demanding opener with a strong motif, launching a rangy foray from pianist Stu Mindeman and a typically intense and varied inquiry from Garcia. Later, the title cut fades in to a portmanteau of Charlie Parker-type phrases, with Mindeman parsing "Oleo" into an investigative outing. The keyboardist flips to the warmer Fender Rhodes for "Taurus On The Run," beautifully heralded by contrabass, before the sparkier "Taurus And Virgo" kicks in with percussionist Juan Pastor on cajon. "Dragon Rose" proves Vega can score pretty as well as punchy.
He's a virile, astute tenor saxophonist and a fine composer, and this album is a generous outpour from his versatile bag.