At the age of 12, when Ray Vega saw Machito & His Orchestra play in Central Park, the South Bronx native decided he was destined to play the saxophone. Enrolled in his school's music program, Vega received the bad news that the school was out of saxophones, so he reluctantly switched to trumpet. A year later he was being taught by Down Beat poll winner Jerry Gonzales, an experience that changed Vega's opinion of the instrument forever. Studying the trumpet throughout his high-school years gave Vega the chops to land gigs in the bands backing Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Paul Simon, and Tito Puente. On his own he refined his trumpet, composition, and percussion skills and made his solo debut in 1996 with his self-titled album for the Concord label. He recorded Boperation for the label in 1999 but switched to Palmetto for his 2002 release, Pa'Lante. After serving a year as artist-in-residence for the Cityfolk program in Dayton, OH, Vega released his second Palmetto album, Squeeze Squeeze, in 2004. Vega also serves as a member of the Bronx Council of the Arts. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi