Ray Vega and Thomas Marriott made a splash in 2010 with the first edition of their East West Trumpet Summit, which went to #1 on the jazz charts on the strength of their interplay and rapport as they tore through a varied program of classic hard-bop sounds. The release of the second edition, Return of the East West Trumpet Summit is a welcome return to the studio, and builds nicely on the heritage of the initial release.
While the albums are a chance for New Yorker Vega and local treasure Marriott to pay tribute to trumpet tandems of the past such as Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, it's also simply a chance to play some great jazz in a relaxed setting, without pretension or trend-chasing, and the entire band's enjoyment is palpable. Return features a bit less emphasis on originals than the first volume, drawing more extensively on standards and the Great American Songbook, but the tunes are well-chosen and give a broad variety of flavors for the band to blow over.
The duo is once again backed by the ubiquitous and vital Matt Jorgensen on drums, while the masterful George Colligan holds it down on the Hammond B-3, pumping out basslines and anchoring a rich harmonic landscape with a finely tuned sense of groove.
Both Marriott and Vega swing hard throughout the album. Marriott's playing in particular sounds stronger than ever, full of punchy phrases and fluidly executed melodic ideas, all delivered with the thoughtful brevity of a composer. Ultimately, this album is not a trumpet battle: it's two superb musicians seemingly devoid of ego, displaying obvious affection for the music and themselves, and telling a story - what great jazz is all about.