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Travis Vega: Reviews

Travis Vega lets his guitar do the talking. At least that's what he does on his four smooth-jazz recordings. When he's playing live, though, the Lodi resident has plenty to say.

"I want to be intimate," said Vega, 28, who performs with his percussionist brother Jason, 35, in an outdoor courtyard setting Saturday at Pasos Vineyards in Lockeford. "We're almost like storytellers. We literally go over each song. You know, what happened and how it came about. We really discuss where the music comes from."

His new CD - the 10-track, all-instrumental "U" - arrived straight from the heart.

"It's tough when you're arranging and producing, because the chord progressions are so important," said Vega, who was trying to capture the emotions of meeting and marrying Stockton resident Jessica Jones while recording "U." "They just make it groove in a different way. The words I wanna say are translated into how I'm playing. I gravitate toward melodies that indicate what I want to say or justify how I feel. I wanted to capture emotions in a lyrical way."

This time, Vega - who plays a custom-made, flamenco-sounding Gibson guitar crafted by Nashville's Greg Bennett - was seeking a lighter, brighter Latin feel.

"This has been a beautiful, beautiful piece of instrument," Vega said. "I was writing in a Spanish tone. Peter White-esque tones. I had to really get in and find the personality of this guitar. It really produced some great tones."

Vega's influences are wide-ranging.

Born the youngest of four brothers, the Lodi High School graduate was 9 when he started sneaking into a closet and tinkering around on brother Joe's beat-up Stella acoustic guitar.

"If he ever caught me, he would have whipped me a new one," the enthusiastic Vega said with a laugh. "It was all broken up, and the action was horrible."

His parents, Frank and Virginia, heard him and heard something. They gave him an electric guitar and tiny amplifier for his 14th birthday: "a little Yamaha Pacifica. I didn't know what to make of this thing." (He still plays it, though.)

Off he went, picking his way through Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, ska, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Jamaican Ernest Ranglin, South African rhythms. Anything and everything.

"Those rhythms really pulsated and really spoke to me," said Vega, who's as verbally animated as his music is mellow. "How did they get these rhythms, these funk-styled guitars?"

When he arrived at jazz master Wes Montgomery, he learned about riffing on guitar strings with his thumb. When he saw George Benson perform at Stockton's then-Fox Theatre in 1998 - and subsequently checked out Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and other jazz fusion types - he tapped into that "R&B-jazz thing."

While at Hollywood's Musicians Institute, he was tutored by Norman Brown and interacted with Larry Carlton, Stanley Clarke and George Duke, jazzmen whose adventurous stylings gradually morphed into smooth jazz.

He's tried to blend it all, recording at home - "You have all the great outlets at your fingertips" - playing anywhere he can and working with Internet companies such as New York's Jingle Punks and L.A.'s Music Reports Inc., providing tunes for cable TV channels (TLC, Bravo).

He also wants to work on films, TV commercials and other "dig media."

"Digital marketing has been really cool," said Vega, who has submitted three songs he "did as a kid" for an L.A. Chillharmonic project.

Performing for discerning audiences remains the key, though.

"Nowadays, people wanna focus on quality," Vega said. "It's a unique thing. We're really starting to see people now who are looking backward (musically), and we're learning how to please these people.

"It's under my discretion to stay true to quality. You really don't wanna speak about what you do. You let it speak for itself."

Travis Vega - Smooth Urban Night

Young guitarist Travis Vega has already released the albums Through The Valley (2004) and Just Let It Flow (2007). Travis is already a proven songwriter/composer; his recent compositions charted the SmoothJazz.com charts with radio hit singles Club Street (Les Sabler Sweet Drive) and Wine (Andrew Neu In Clear View).

Full of new ideas he couldn't resist to publish his third album Smooth Urban Night (2008), which will not only let enthuse lovers of smooth jazz guitar music. "I don't consider myself a straight ahead jazz musician, but a musician that has influences of jazz, pop, R&B, hip-hop, rock, I love to combine all those styles that have influenced me and create what feels good to me."

Following this motto one finds many new melodies enthralling audience and fellow musicians. Multi-instrumentalist Travis Vega has written, produced and performed all songs supported by his brother Jason Vega with digi drums and percussion.

In anticipation of the conclusion Travis entitles the starting song It's All Good. Travis' heritage are influences of George Benson, Wes Montgomery and Norman Brown. If you love these guitar styles, you will feel at home with Travis' guitar sound.

Vega Motion conjures the authentic feeling of contemporary life. Ambitious, direct and nevertheless full of emotion (e-motion). A repetitive melody with modern ornaments. The title song Smooth Urban Night is a melodious street finder in the urban darkness. To the end Travis shines as guitar virtuoso.

Like It Like That has a strong head bopping beat inviting for movement and dance. On Latin Knights Travis shows his deep knowledge of the Spanish school. A real mirror of the Latin scene in South California. Autumn Breeze is a return to the smooth jazz base with mellow tones.

Nite Flow is standing in a strong contrast between Travis' sensible and excellent guitar performance and the urban beat, which cannot reach the level of this sophistic guitar play.

Pacific Wind brings a breeze from Travis' home with guitar riffs along the scale. The fresh wind goes on in Summer Nights. The slow ballade Hear Me Say keeps you in uplifting mood. While Save It For Later rises the tempo to a danceable beat. With Good Feelin' closes Travis his ambitious album showcasing extensively his guitar chords.

Smooth Urban Night is exactly what the title says. Smooth urban guitar sound at its best. No wonder that other guitar players are interested in Travis work and melodies.
HBH - Smooth & Soul (Jun 22, 2008)
Sometimes, as if out of nowhere, a CD comes along that both surprises and delights. ‘Smooth Urban Night’ by Northern California based guitarist Travis Vega is such a recording. With a title that sums up to perfection the mellow and sensual groove that permeates much of the album, this independently produced release, for which Vega writes and produces throughout, is, in its entirety, a chilled out delight.

Despite being only twenty six years of age his playing style has been variously compared to George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Norman Brown and Peter White. This is high praise indeed yet with the laid back ‘Nite Flow’ its Whites distinctive style that comes immediately to mind. Smooth jazz with a mellow twist is what Vega is about and, as tracks such as the sumptuous ‘Autumn Breeze’, ‘Hear Me Say’ and the turned down ‘Good Feelin’ all drift by in a delicious haze, it becomes clear that ‘Smooth Urban Night’ is more than merely a title. It is a concept. That said the title of the track from which the album takes its name was selected from a poll of listeners suggestions. It’s another song totally in tune with the overall mood of the collection and in this respect is in the excellent company of ‘Its All Good’ which delivers all the rhythm and melody you will ever need.

Whenever Vega chooses to up the tempo the change is exhilarating. ‘Latin Knights’ finds his cool guitar blending with mariachi style backing, ‘Summer Nights’ is both engaging and jazzy whilst ‘Save It For Later’ dovetails Vega’s own innovative production with forceful keyboards to deliver an attractive and energetic foot stomper.

However, in the final analysis ‘Smooth Urban Night’ is built upon its unmistakable cool groove. ‘Pacific Wind’ is another choice example, ‘Vega Motion’ is totally radio ready and another cut for which the airwaves beckon is ‘Like It Like That’. With lusciously synthesized orchestral backing and more of Vega’s great guitar this is a tune glistens like a precious stone.

‘Smooth Urban Night’ is Vega’s third release and comes in the wake of his 2004 debut ‘Through The Valley’ and its follow up ‘Just Let It Flow’. Overall it is a timely reminder that, beyond the major labels, there is a veritable battalion of self produced performers who offer contemporary jazz something that is both fresh and compelling.
As soon as you drop this in your cd player your senses will be tantalized and that is exactly what Travis Vega does, tantalize your senses.

Travis caught the t.u.m.s staff off guard with this electrifying cd “Smooth urban night” and that is exactly what it is smooth.

From beginning to end this guitar virtuoso has injected charm and passion into each song which enables you to appreciate the complex layers of instrumentation

That Travis has laid down. The production is exceptionally exquisite

With tracks like “It’s all good, Vega motion, Smooth urban night, Like it like that, Autumn breeze, Pacific Wind, Hear me say, Good Feelin, Summer nights” are sure to get your head nodding, Travis turns the notch up a little bit on the latin flavored “Latin Knights and Save it for later”, then turns it down a little bit on “Night flow”.

Travis has taken smooth jazz to the next level and his star has risen and shining brightly over the jazz community.

At your next bbq, dinner party, or just having friends over, I guarantee this cd will make time stand still.



Marv D

T.U.M.S
When you love to play guitar, you play. Nothing can stop you. When musical ideas are burning in your brain, you play them. Through The Valley (2004) was Travis' expression and his debut album, starting his career as solo musician. George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Norman Brown and Peter White are Travis' idols. In fact these legends have impressed a whole generation of guitarists. Following the mainstream in smooth jazz Travis soon succeeded in placing his music on smooth jazz radio stations throughout the United States. Travis comments: "I really don't know if you can call what I do Jazz parse, I don't consider myself a straight ahead jazz musician, but a musician that has influences of jazz, pop, R&B, hip-hop, rock, I love to combine all those styles that have influenced me and create what feels good to me."

Even other guitarists like Les Sabler profit by Travis' great musical talent. His sophomore album Just Let It Flow (2007) is ready to climb the charts. On his new album one finds no guest musician, no great names, no cover, just pure original music. Travis got some help by his brother Jason Vega, who played percussion on all songs and his sister Kia Vega, background vocals on Just Let It Flow. Travis says: "This is the project that saved me. Just Let It Flow was a project that helped me through the toughest time in my life, it was the opposite of what I was going through, and it represented the positive side of me during a time of negativity. I composed, played, recorded, mixed and mastered Just Let It Flow in four months, I had my brother who tours with me play percussion on most of the tracks. Just Let It Flow became very personnel for me, challenging me to extend myself and think beyond the guitar."

My expectations are high, Travis is a great talent not only as guitarist but also as composer. The short intro indicates his website myspace.com/travisvegamusic, where you have the opportunity to listen to samples of the new album and read about Travis' roots. The 25 years old Travis is fresh on the start to a big career.

Travis' guitar performance has this special ease of an experienced musician. That Feeling has a captivating loop which is transferred in various keys. Many critics compare his performance with a flow of a river. That is easy to explain not only by the title of this album, but also by the steady loudness of his play and the constant tempo. This is significant on his song Just Let It Flow, on which Travis concentrates on the melody and not on various tempi. It is an extremely crucial element of sound, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece. Travis uses instead a trick, he injects the loops with some guitar solos. This kind of performance infects the melody making it hypnotically accessible.

The second part of his magic is the rhythm. When Ever Where Ever is a good example to explain this principle. The melody performed by the electric guitar is repetitious like a loop. All other instruments like keyboards, acoustic guitar, drum loops and bongo patterns are building this tapestry of rhythm, always unobtrusive in the background.

Don't Be Late follows the same method, but this time Travis expands his guitar solos. He has the ability to shine and when he leaves the melody path he is brilliant. On Now & Then Travis is using other instruments for example the flute to interpret the melody. The dynamic touch of the tune is produced by very fast and lively programmed keyboard patterns which I recently observed on the Jeff Lorber produced part of Eric Marienthal's Just Around The Corner.

Very important for the dynamic of an album is constant re-invention of music. Try something different, see the music from another standpoint. I cannot suggest to change the guitar, when someone likes his guitar like Travis. So Travis adds on Dorian another rhythm element, the water drop sound. Also very popular is the applied shuffle beat.

Leaving The Past is a slow ballade showcasing Travis diversity. During the recitation on electric guitar he builds the bridge with his acoustic guitar. This is a highlight in Spanish Flamenco and I regret the shortness of this bridge. The onomatopoeic intro of Valley View would be worth to be longer. Travis has a strong affinity to guitar chords in the way of George Benson, Norman Brown or Nick Colionne. It's really hard to be a chart breaker with such a competition. The only recipe for success beside mastership is creativity and innovation. Surprise the audience!

On Straight Chillin' Travis is using the well-known smooth jazz formula of relaxation and chilling out. The slow ballade Coastal View offers more of Travis' guitar skills. "Those tracks represent the influence that R&B, Hip-Hop and Chill has on me, bringing in that type of production to those songs," comments Travis. The Eastside Story marks the end of the album. The up-tempo style is obviously Travis' strength.

Travis Vega has a good nose for grooves and melodies. Walking on the paths of masters like George Benson he has the condition for a bright future, good compositions and skills. He will certainly make the next step to stardom.
HBH - Smooth & Soul (Nov 1, 2007)
"Travis has definitely taken his music to the next level. His new CD is smooth and jazzy, and will flow very nicely on The River. We are glad artists like Travis are making our kind of music right here in the valley."

Doug Wulff, Music Director/Co-owner
The River, KRVR, Smooth Jazz 105.5
Modesto, CA
Doug Wulff - The River 105.5
"Vega's music flows like a soothing cup of tea first thing in the morning. It's a great way to get up and start the day."
— Marc Lutz, Lodi News-Sentinel
Marc Lutz - Lodi News Sentinel
Listening to Travis's music takes you to a rhythmic high that enlightens you with a feeling of cool energy and rekindled love...

The Smooth Groovers Review Podcast
http://www.smoothgroovers.com
Smooth Groovers - The Smooth Groovers Review
By Ian Hill
209 Music
February 27, 2007 6:00 AM

While other teens were listening to ska, rock or rap, Travis Vega was discovering jazz.

When he was 15 or 16, the Lodi native went looking for the solid, bouncing rhythms that made ska so appealing. During his search, he came across the work of pioneering jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.

"I was hooked," said Vega, 25. "It was just amazing to hear him playing."

He found Montgomery's sound melodic, mesmerizing and different. It led Vega to pursue a career as a guitarist, and a decade later he's getting attention in the contemporary jazz world. "The Smooth Groovers Review," an English podcast, has featured his work, and "Don't Be Late," the single from Vega's new album, "Just Let it Flow," is in rotation on Modesto's KRVR 105.5 FM.

KRVR music director, co-owner and operations manager Doug Wulff said he was impressed by Vega's musicianship as well as the professional sound of "Just Let it Flow."

"I listen to a lot of CDs, even ones that come from other areas of the country," Wulff said. "His, it sounded great."

"Don't Be Late" opens with a quick Latin beat followed by a hot but understated guitar progression. It's both easy and energetic, like a Sunday morning version of Santana.

The track "Dorian," meanwhile, combines a synthesizer and electronic effects with a blues influence. "Just Let it Flow" closes with the upbeat "The Eastside Story," which showcases Vega's ability to create an enticing rhythm with his guitar.

Vega said he first became interested in music when he was 11 and he would try to play his grandfather's acoustic guitar. Later, inspired by Montgomery, Vega joined the Lodi High School jazz band and began to play local shows.

After graduating from Lodi High in 2000, Vega attended the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, where he worked with professional musicians and learned about engineering, songwriting and the music industry.

"We got a 360-degree experience of being an artist," Vega said.

He released his first CD, "Through the Valley," in 2004. Vega's now working to promote "Just Let it Flow" through the Internet, live shows and radio.
Ian Hill - 209 Music (Feb 27, 2007)
Smooth Moves
By Lauren Nelson
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
It's a beautiful, blue skied afternoon at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and people dressed in work attire, flowing dresses and slacks fill courtyard chairs for the Thursday night jazz series. On stage, Lodi musician Travis Vega dances to his own sounds as he flawlessly plays his amber colored guitar.
The audience is winding down, getting in a smooth mood as they pile their plates with roast beef sandwiches, spinach salad and green Jell-O. They aren't dancing yet, but they will. The seats will loosen up and more people will gravitate to the grassy outskirts and unofficial dance area in front. Vega, who has already jumped down from his platform stage, walks through the aisles, serenading his audience as they sip miniature Starbucks cups of a tea and coffee concoction.
He is always smiling, always moving his body and lips to the sound of the notes he writes. The audience loves him because he gives off an energy that tells every one everything is going to be OK.
He looks like a jazz man in a sleek maroon shirt and loose black slacks. He even sounds like one when he says things like "feel the music" in a deep voice like the smooth-talking disc jockeys of the jazz radio stations playing his songs.
Nobody knows that only an hour ago he was in long denim shorts and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes setting up his own stage under the hot March sun. Nobody saw when museum staff told him to move his own car.

Vega plays his signature amber guitar.
Vega is the 25-year-old musician leading the jazz group known simply as Travis Vega. Travis Vega plays guitar on stage and creates background music with the keyboard. The extent of his singing is a scat here and there and a vocal mimic of guitar chords, but his thoughts show on his face and his expressions mime each pitch. His brother Jason "JV" Vega plays percussion, throwing in sounds with small instruments like the crash, chimes, congas, bongos, tambourine, sticks, casaba and hand symbol. The eldest brother Frank Vega is the band's manager who stands cool and quiet behind the scenes.
On this evening in a courtyard sandwiched between a Victorian museum and a busy downtown Sacramento street, Travis Vega is releasing its second album, "Just Let it Flow." It is a transition to a lighter, more positive note after their first album, "Through the Valley" that Travis Vega describes as chill oriented, ambient and darker in the key of minor.
"Just Let it Flow" represents positive music. It is very light and airy but has a lot of soulfulness," Travis Vega said.
The first guitar Travis Vega played belonged to his brother. It was an old sunburst acoustic that the brothers' grandfather handed down. Travis Vega remembers it smelling of urine, but that didn't matter to him. The 10-year-old Travis Vega continued to sneak the guitar from the closet so he could practice.
In his bedroom he performed, even though the strings on the old guitar were at least an inch from the base. He created his own sound that is also molded from a childhood spent listening to his older brothers' rock, ska and alternative music.

And now, as he sings to his new following in Sacramento, songs that mix alternative, R&B and pop, he is comfortable. He moves gracefully through the crowd as if he is singing and playing for himself. Even with people standing around him and more than 200 sets of eyes on him, it is though he is alone.
"I feel like I'm still that kid in my room," he said. "(My guitar) — it's part of me. Music is my life."
Being a musician is not only his life, it's his livelihood. While his older brothers work day jobs, Travis Vega spends his days networking online, booking gigs, researching, doing the business side from his home in Lodi.
"I'm the baby of the family so I guess I'm lucky," he said.
Still, they work as a team on their group. And Jason Vega, 32, says his younger brother really is all the talent.
Travis Vega attended the Musician's Institute in Hollywood after graduating from Lodi High School. Though he seemed quite the protégé while in Lodi, Hollywood was a different story. He could play the notes, but he couldn't name the chords. He knew the jazz notes, but he didn't know their organization. It took even more practice to get from his stage as a self taught musician to jazz musician who knew what he was playing.

Since he learned how to fine tune his skills under the watch of jazz experts, Travis Vega has been picked up as a regular on the radio station, The River 105.
"They said it's a rarity for a local artist to be put on (a station's) major rotation," Travis Vega said.
It's also due to the Internet, especially Myspace, that the Travis Vega songs are spreading. He went online with Cdbaby.com, a company that distributes independent artists' music to other outlets such as iTunes and Napster. Because of the Internet publicity and River 105, his songs are being played across the world in Georgia, New York, Las Vegas and France.
Travis Vega says he is humbled by many of the experiences he has had already. He is thankful to his parents, Virginia and Frank Sr. Vega, who he calls his angles.
"At the end of the day, I can pick up my guitar and thank God I have my family, my guitar, my health and I have the ability to play this thing," he said.
Lauren Nelson - Lodi Living (Mar 24, 2007)
Lodi musician draws from Latino origins to 'season' his jazz

Tuesday marked Mardi Gras festivities throughout the world. Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans are most famous for their celebrations, but did you know the third largest event in the world is held in Mazatlan, Mexico? Celebrated for more than 100 years, visitors partake in Mazatlan's Carnaval including food, parade floats and much revelry. But the connection between the three cultures goes beyond Carnaval; they are connected for their Latino roots of music.

On a "Fresh Air" NPR radio interview with New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, he was asked why he started one of his jazz bands, Los Hombres Calientes. He went on to explain that as an African-American from New Orleans, his Louisiana culture is derived from the Caribbean. The Latin islands, with their various versions of beans and rice, steel drum sounds, and salsa dancing, all influenced Mayfield and New Orleans.

Though France dominated the region in 1718, New Orleans was briefly ruled by Spain. Slaves from Santo Domingo and other Spanish-ruled islands rebelled and settled in New Orleans, bringing with them Catholic religion, customs and Latin music.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, according to Ken Burns' music documentary.

French Creole Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941), considered one of the originators of U.S. jazz, coined the term "Spanish tinge," which he used to describe jazz. In his Library of Congress recordings he states, "Now in one of my earliest tunes, 'New Orleans Blues,' you can notice the Spanish tinge. In fact, if you can't manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to get the right seasoning, I call it, for jazz."

And jazz mixed with traditional merengue, salsa, mambo, bossa nova and samba sounds and instruments, gave way to Afro-Cuban Latin jazz in the 1930s and 1960s Brazilian jazz.

By 2005, El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor) was inducted into the United States National Recording Registry by the National Recording Preservation Board. Commenting on the Cuban classic, the board stated, "It is the first American recording of an authentic Latin dance style. This recording launched a decade of 'rumbamania,' introducing U.S. listeners to Cuban percussion instruments and Cuban rhythms."

Machito, Arturo Sandoval, Jo-o Gilberto and Mongo Santamaria are fathers of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian Latin jazz, but Latinos in jazz are not confined to Latin jazz.

Travis Vega, a Lodi musician, is known for his smooth jazz renditions. Smooth jazz, defined as a mix of R&B, pop, world and alternative in a structured melodic form, is what Vega knows best. His latest CD, "Just Let it Flow," was released Feb. 5 and is a popular staple on Modesto's radio station The River 105.5, along with stations in New York, Georgia, Florida, UK, France and many online radio shows.

Just as jazz virtuosos Jelly Roll Morton, Stan Kenton and Machito began a legacy of new music, Vega is a pioneer also. Self-taught, produced, written and arranged, Vega distributes his music on his indie label utilizing electronic media, challenging traditional corporate methods. The guy has ganas (will) and talent.

"I am a smooth jazz artist, but my soulfulness comes from my (Mexican) heritage," Vega says. His soulfulness also comes from his close family, especially brother Jason Vega, who plays percussion on most tracks. "We, as Latinos, are a step ahead. We understand that family comes first. With that comes support and freedom to go for it full steam ahead."

Though his family and heritage is a part of his passion, it is past musical interests that influence his current work.

"I grew up watching awards shows with performances by Michael Jackson, New Edition, Cameo and Bobby Brown. Now I infuse old school style with jazz." Vega's latest CD reflects his optimism in smooth jazz and his career. "It's a CD about just being happy. It represents a step forward and positive changes. The notes are in major, which gives off a happier sound."

Many local arts groups are happy too. On March 15, Vega performs at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. There are talks with the Lodi Arts Commission, and new tour dates are added frequently to his Web site: http://www.myspace.com/travisvegamusic. He gains more and more fans everyday.

Travis Vega is an example of the Latin evolution in jazz, from our New Orleans Caribbean roots to Afro-Cuban Latin jazz to paving a new frontier in smooth jazz. Because Latinos own a legacy of jazz, it does not confine us to one segment of the genre.

As Mardi Gras celebrations wind down in Rio de Janiero, New Orleans, Mazatlan and Lodi, I'm proud to know Latin heritage plays a key role in the vivacious beats and keeps jazz music flowing.
Sandra Gonzalez - Vida Lodi (Feb 22, 2007)