LIVE: “Doc Cheatham: A Portrait in Jazz” @ Union College’s Emerson Auditorium, 5/14/10

Erik Johnson and Ray Vega

Erik Johnson and Ray Vega

Last Friday night, Ahora, Latin/Jazz presented “Doc Cheatham: A Portrait in Jazz,” and the audience at Union College’s Emerson Auditorium was not only treated to a concert, but also to a panel discussion with trumpet titan Ray Vega, bandleader and clarinet master Skip Parsons and jazz writer, drummer and A Place For Jazz president Tim Coakley.

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The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Jose Cruz – president and founder of Jazz/Latino, Inc. – and a wide variety of questions concerning the life and times of the late trumpet legend Doc Cheatham were discussed during the evening. Each of the participants had played with or known Cheatham, but the icing on the cake was the participation of both Cheatham’s wife and daughter in the Q&A session with the audience.

Following the intermission, Ray Vega took command of the assembled quartet to play a dozen of so tunes brilliantly capturing the spirit and sound of the great Doc Cheatham. Vega’s beautifully toned and sparkling trumpet lines soared over the tight rhythm section’s seamless beats and notes. If the trumpeter hadn’t announced earlier that the group was playing together for the very first time, no one would have known that pianist Ray Alexander, bassist Erik Johnson or drummer Pete Sweeney weren’t Vega’s long-standing accompanists. It was that good.

Just last month, Jazz/Latino. Inc. presented a concert by the Jazz/Latino All-Stars – also led by Vega – at the First Unitarian Society’s Whisperdome, kicking off their 2010 season of events. (Read our review here.) For those who follow the organization’s presentations, it was a grand delight the see and hear Ray Vega play twice in the area in two completely different musical settings.

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

You can view Rudy Lu’s photographs of the performance at

Ray Alexander and Pete Sweeney

Ray Alexander and Pete Sweeney

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