Saxophonist Carlos Vega's debut on Origin Records, Bird's Ticket
, is a delightful set of bop-influenced compositions laced with Latin exuberance and soul-jazz nuances. Vega's quintet interprets these intriguing originals with thrilling virtuosity and unbridled spontaneity.
The title track opens with energetic, hard-swinging group refrains. Vega exhibits his full-bodied, vibrato- tinged tone as he eloquently embellishes the main theme. Trumpeter Victor Garcia perfectly complements Vega in the frontline, as his warm and organic sound marks his intelligent, earthy improvisation that sets the mood for the leader's own turn in the spotlight. The members of the rhythm section engage in a stimulating three-way conversation with gripping agility and complex overlapping patterns.
Bassist Josh Ramos opens the ethereal "Taurus on the Run" with a lyrical and contemplative solo. Pianist Stu Mindeman adds a bittersweet touch to the cinematic tune with his resonant Fender Rhodes chords. Vega's own breathy, conversational extemporization unfolds slowly over the electrifying percolations of his bandmates.
Mindeman's "nocturnesque" lines construct an ambience tinged with a Spanish romanticism on the dramatic "Taurus and Virgo." Over percussionist Juan Pastor's galloping cajon beats and drummer Xavier Breaker's thunderous kit, Garcia lets loose a passionate and graceful soliloquy marked by burnished, long notes. Vega takes center stage with fiery and poetic muscular phrases.
On the acoustic piano, Mindeman demonstrates equal virtuosity, especially on the lively "The Wizard." His cascade of breathtaking arpeggios and percussive chords flow furiously around the melody. Garcia adds a laid- back swagger as Vega blows with lithe dexterity and deep gusto. Ramos' reverberating strings dance with a funky attitude while Breaker, with his fierce and turbulent polyrhythms, ushers in the dynamic concluding head.
With this exhilarating album, Vega has proven himself a talented composer and an inspired performer. He and his Chicago-based quintet have created a uniformly superb work that continuously engages and satisfies.