A musical conversation

Caressing each key tenderly, musicians coerced individual notes out of brass, bass, drums and guitar. Ray Vega’s Burlington Jazz Ensemble presented original compositions and arrangements on March 28 at a performance at the UVM Recital Hall.For Vega, who began his UVM career in September 2008, this was the second performance of this year’s ensemble. “What I did was I made a group of two students from UVM and two local musicians who represent a good picture of younger players in this area. They play very different from what I’m used to … reflects the generation,” he said. After 47 years in New York City, Vega made the move with his family to Burlington, where he said that the quality of life is better. Vega first picked up the trumpet in the South Bronx in middle school. This background had a profound affect on him. During the performance at the recital hall, he transitioned into each piece with a brief description of its origin and his personal experience that influenced the selection. For original arrangement “It’s a New York Thing,” Vega explained his shift in attitude when revisiting the Big Apple from Vermont. But he still misses New York. “New York has a lot of tradition. [There are] certain things I miss — I miss the level of musicianship I was dealing with in N.Y. Choices [in Burlington] are much more limited,” Vega said. Prior to his work at UVM, the professor taught at SUNY Purchase, which houses a conservatory program where the students attending were all music majors. At UVM, many are not. He describes his students ­— while often novice — as very creative and audacious in their approach. As an accomplished trumpet player, Vega is in the process of releasing a CD with Seattle-based Origin Records. The album is the work of both Vega and internationally acclaimed Marriott Thomas.Inspirations for his work are many, from Miles Davis and Duke Ellington to the early navigators of Latin-inspired jazz. “The list is long, [but] Miles definitely sticks out. He influences me as a trumpet stylist and innovator as a band leader,” he said. “Overall, he was the entire package — the Picasso of jazz.”  Vega is involved in many projects, from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to groups in San Francisco, New York and Seattle. His career has opened many doors for him as a musician, as he has been able to travel around the world. “It’s given me the opportunity to be able to be able to meet different faces brought together. Jazz represents freedom, intellect and community,” Vega said. Vega’s compositions communicate with his audience and the varying generations he works with. The main concern with the Burlington scene is that there is no venue that has taken a chance to commit to jazz on Saturday nights, Vega said. Vega hopes to change this, as Muddy Waters will feature the UVM professor on Saturday nights in the latter part of April.