URI Jazz faculty, guest artist Ray Vega for night of Afro-Caribbean music

URI showcased Afro-Caribbean music at Fine Arts Center. PHOTO CREDIT: Casey Chan-Smutko | Staff Reporter

At the University of Rhode Island, the Fine Arts Center hosted Ray Vega and the URI Jazz faculty for a concert showcasing Afro Caribbean music on April 6.

Ray Vega is a musician who plays trumpet and percussion and has composed and arranged many songs. He’s played and recorded with numerous bands like the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Tito Puente where he won three Grammy awards and with Paul Simon.

The concert began with the URI Jazz Faculty playing three songs, “Daylight” by Steve Davis, “Labyrinth” by John McKenna and “Straight Street” by John Coltrane. 

The faculty was made up of McKenna, Emmett Goods, assistant professor of music/teacher in jazz trombone and Mark Berney, artist/teacher in jazz trumpet, Zaccai Curtis, an artist/teacher in jazz piano and commercial music composition, Dave Zinno, artist/teacher in jazz string bass, Steve Langone, artist/teacher in jazz drum set and guest drummer Jocelyn Pleasant.

In the three songs, you could hear every single instrument playing in unison. Each instrument had solos, usually accompanied by bass, piano and percussion. Each solo was different in length, trumpets and saxophones usually had the melodies and the sound was upbeat.

After their set, Ray Vega came on stage to replace Berney on trumpet and the band played five songs. They were “Freedom” by Vega, “Lost” and “Marie Antoinette” by Wayne Shorter, “Moontrane” by Woody Shaw and “Love is New” by Cedar Walton.

The two songs by Wayne Shorter were played as a tribute to him because he died about a month ago. “When Love is New” was a ballad and Vega said it was a tribute to an audience member who lost their brother recently. Finally, “Moontrane” which Shaw wrote when he was 17 and is in honor of John Coltrane who influenced Shaw’s music.

Each song had a different sound with “Freedom” where you can hear a lot of trumpet and saxophone on solos. “Moontrane” and “Marie Antoinette” featured cowbell to keep a steady beat. “When Love is New” was slower than the other songs and each solo sounded like it was telling a story more than playing a song for entertainment. “Lost” sounded like a mix of both where there were slow parts coming from the trumpet but the drums were moderate. 

The last song they played was “My Blues” by Slide Hampton, where they invited Berney back onto the stage. 

After each song, the audience gave cheers and claps. By the end of the concert, the concert hall was filled with loud applause.

Luca Alessandro-Spinella, a second-year student studying computer science, said he liked the concert. The ensemble was intune and relaxed.

“It was a nice change to what I usually saw in highschool where it was a bunch of young kids,” Alessandro-Spinella said. “I never got the opportunity to see an ensemble who practice together for one day and perform it on stage and rock it.”

Berney said he loved playing in the concert even if the music was hard to practice.  

“I thought it was a very special treat to have legendary musician Ray Vega who played with many musicians. I loved playing with the Jazz Faculty,” according to Berney.

Additionally, said the next event is on Saturday, April 15 at 1 p.m. according to the Fine Arts Center website. It features Milana Cepeda performing her spring senior composition recital.

Other upcoming events can be found on the Fine Arts Center website and tickets can be bought through the Eventbrite app.