The pianist Donald Vega is now on a don’t-touch-me pinnacle. With his album As I Travel he unveils a richly detailed narrative of his journey that brought him from Nicaragua – where he was born and lived out the first formative years of his life – to the United States, to New York, to be precise. Here he began the next chapter in his musical sojourn climbing from the mountaineer’s proverbial base camp to the top of the musician’s proverbial pinnacle, celebrating his arrival at the top when he was invited to assume the piano chair in ensembles led by the great Ron Carter.
Now, he tells us on the album, about his fabled voyage. The repertoire contains some old footage – that he would have us gazed upon as longingly as he did while creating it and putting it together from a series of faded photographs [Dear Mayra]. Equally enchanting – perhaps digging deeper into the past – is when he surfaces for air and gives us vivid, and eloquently elegiac impressionist portraits in Isabel – The Enchanting Nature of You and Beautiful Ladies. Those beautiful memories unfold with fascinating melodies woven together, gossamer-like, in between eloquent, colourful harmonies.
Donald Vega: As I Travel
Always and everywhere melody and harmony is held together by rippling, tumbling rhythms, clearly embedded in body and soul with which Mr Vega leans into his music. The pianist virtually bursts out of the gate with ¡Baila! Dance Like No One’s Watching. Indeed, the joie de vivre is not only palpable but sustained as he propels his way with musicians perfectly attuned to his vision and artistry through the main act, namely As I Travel, followed up by gloriously magical advice he once took to heart as he turned it into so exquisitely into the songful I Know You Can Fly.
There is joy, profundity, and deep meditation in songs such as Tomorrows II, Alegria and the number in which he appears to bear his once-troubled soul: Disturbios. Taken together this music clearly represents the zenith of Mr Vega’s art. An ideal partnership with the bassist John Patitucci, who appears to be a perfect fit for Ron Carter’s BIG shoes, playing with erudite rumbling and particularly bass line melody throughout, stepping into the limelight with a particularly elegant solo on Dear Mayra.
No less a figure is drummer Lewis Nash, who prevails throughout with delectable lightness of touch, that is often teasingly climactic as the songs reach their dénouement. Mr Nash’s painterly brushstrokes – with sticks and other hand-held implements – is perfectly complemented by the inimitable Luisito Quintero, a great percussion colourist in his own right.
With the rapt intensity and idiomatic playing throughout, this music goes like the wind, with Mr Vega’s contrasts in tone and colour turning each chorus of each song into a seductively habitable sound-world into which this prodigiously gifted musician bids us enter… and fall prey to its irresistible charms.
YouTube Playlist – Donald Vega: As I Travel
Music – 1: ¡Baila! Dance Like No One’s Watching; 2: As I Travel; 3: I Know You Can Fly; 4: Tomorrows II; 5: Alegria; 6: Disturbios; 7: Isabel – The Enchanting Nature of You; 8: Dear Mayra; 9: Beautiful Ladies.
Musicians – Donald Vega: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Lewis Nash: drums; Luisito Quintero: percussion.
Released – 2023
Label – Imagery Records / Tiger Turn
Runtime – 50:14
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