Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott

East West Trumpet Summit: Coast to Coast



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MUSIC REVIEW BY Paul Rauch, All About Jazz


4-STARS For some people, the whole notion of an east-west summit of anything in jazz brings up the perceived differences over time between American west coast jazz and its east coast counterpart. The basic premise is that jazz on the American west coast is a cousin to the cool jazz movement, a calmer, less soulful part of the tradition that relies more on composition and arrangement than the playing of individual improvisers. East coast jazz is seen more as hard driving, soulful and rooted deeply in the blues. All of these perceptions have been eclipsed in great part by among other aspects of modern living, the internet and efficient commercial air travel.

In the case of Coast to Coast, the designation is more applicable to the home cities of Thomas Marriott and Ray Vega, the two master trumpeters who front this third edition of their East-West Trumpet Summit series. Vega is from the Bronx, is the older of the two and a great mentor and friend to his west coast partner. He grew up immersed in the heart of two vibrant New York City music scenes—jazz and salsa. His roots are in performing extensively with Latin Jazz masters Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto, to mention a few. His New York roots have led him to a deep dive into the bebop tradition as well, making him a complete composite of the New York sound.

Seattle trumpeter Marriott emerged as a notable presence in jazz while living in New York City during his formative years as a musician. He had met Vega in Seattle in 1995 while on tour with Puente. Upon his arrival in New York, Vega acted as a big brother to the young trumpeter, showing him around the scene and giving him invaluable career advice along the way. The Bronx born Vega had a home of sorts in Seattle, with the Marriott family welcoming him into their abode when he was in town, thinking of him as family.

In terms of playing style, Marriott has never been described as west coast anything. Between his introduction to the masters by his father and uncle, his time in New York and current associations within the Philadelphia jazz community, Marriott's approach to playing bears the marks of those respective communities. Over the course of his extensive discography, you can sense that gradual shift to playing with more soul and fire, in having a clearer understanding of the great tradition he had stepped into, born in Black culture and struggle. The overall artistry and refinement of his playing has been on a continual upward trend over time.

Marriott's Philly connection on this recording is represented by pianist Orrin Evans, whom he met randomly at a jazz event in Idaho. That chance meeting has resulted in a close friendship and a musical relationship that has included Evan's presence on five of his releases, with Marriott joining Evans in his Captain Black Big Band. He was the clear choice to perform on this project.

Bassist Michael Glynn is a first-call bassist in Seattle, and a friend of Marriott's since their days playing in the highly regarded jazz band at Garfield High School in Seattle. Together with jazz legend Roy McCurdy on drums, he is the perfect straight-ahead compliment to the session. At age 86, McCurdy sounds as good as he did in his days performing in the bands of Cannonball Adderly and Sonny Rollins. The album returns to the quintet format of the original session, after a flirtation with a B-3 organ quartet featuring George Colligan on the follow-up, Return of the East West Trumpet Summit (Origin, 2016).

Marriott offers three originals, the hard driving "One Day at a Time," bouncy swingin,' "Quarter Nelson" and melancholy "Front Row Family." Both Marriott and Vega are featured alone on standards, with Vega delivering an inspired take on "Girl Talk," and Marriott accenting the melancholy of "You've Changed" with his trademark rich tonality.

The twosome harmonize beautifully on Don Cherry's "Art Deco," with Glynn's strong bass line and McCurdy's gorgeous brushwork paving the way. The Charles Mingus classic "So Long Eric" is the capper, with the trumpet duo embraced perfectly by a rhythm section that remarkably sounds like it has been on the road for months together, rather than gathering for a session in Seattle. Vega's dynamic muted solo in every way sheds light on his original style honed in the trenches of New York City.

In the end, the record is all about the players. While Marriott and Vega are close personally, their respective trumpet styles are distinctly different. Within the stereo recording, you can hear them as two separate voices inside the collective context of the band. While both have that deep taproot into the same language, their individual voices stand out loud and clear on this very satisfying session. There is familiarity in the sound of the band, a trust rarely achieved. In choosing players he sees as family, the music bears the sound of love and fellowship. The third edition of this east-west meeting acts as a timeline of sorts, dating back to the original session, East West Trumpet Summit (Origin, 2010), recorded late in 2009. In that light, Vega's playing is the bedrock from which this music emerges. Marriott's playing shows a marked upward trend in terms of his overall artistry. His maturation as a trumpet player and as a bandleader are clearly evident. Everything about this recording speaks to both participants having a clearer vision of what is actually important about the project as a whole—that this partnership conceived undoubtedly in love and friendship must have a supporting cast that qualifies as the same. Mission accomplished.
Track Listing





  • Origin Records
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