Lazaro Vega is a voice on radio in West Michigan. As jazz director at Blue Lake Public Radio and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, MI, he's programmed and hosted 30 hours of jazz radio per week since 1983. Since 1986, Vega has contributed articles, reviews, and features on jazz to The Grand Rapids Press, including interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie McLean, Ornette Coleman, Dave Brubeck, Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams, Mel Tormé, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, and producer Chuck Nessa, among others. Recently, the University of Sheffield, England, published his jazz writing on their web page, as have All About Jazz, The Jazz Institute of Chicago, The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and WNUR radio. Currently involved in writing his first book, a collaboration with Korean musician Jin Hi Kim, Vega also volunteers as board member/music committee co-chairman at The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids, MI. Since 1987, Vega has shepherded through UICA concerts by Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory with Reggie Workman, Fred Anderson, and the DKV Trio, the Steve Lacy Sextet and Quintet, Lee Konitz, the Vinny Golia Trio and Quintet, the Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio with Lester Bowie and poetess Ntozake Shange, the Either/Orchestra, 8 Bold Souls, Malachi Thompson's Freebop Band with poet Amiri Baraka, and many, many others. He's written liner notes for releases by Steve Sandner Trio with Marcus Belgrave, trumpeter Bob Thompson, Michael Doyle's Evidence, the Dixieland Ramblers and Russian vocalist Natalia Nazarova with Chicago jazzman Orbert Davis. Vega began his career at Michigan State University writing about jazz for The State News, corralling a volunteer staff of ten student jazz disc jockeys as jazz director and program host for the WMSN Radio Network and being paid as a university trained board operator for WKAR FM/WKAR AM, and WKAR Satellite Service. He currently lives in the Village of Spring Lake, MI with his wife Lesley, principal owner of her own writing and design firm. Walking his two large black Labrador retrievers in the wooded dunes along Lake Michigan is as close as he comes to being a Hemingway-type these days. ~ Lazaro Vega
Desert Island List:
Muskegon, MI -- "Lazaro Vega, jazz director at Blue Lake Public Radio, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, is reported missing tonight after a three-hour charter excursion on Lake Michigan ran afoul in bad weather."
Whadda they know? The paper didn't tell the whole story, never do. How would it fit? If you ask me, Vega's preparations for that trip tells it, really. It was fate my pipe. He purchased the sandy and uninhabited Manitou Islands in June, built a cottage there -- wired for sound. Out in Lake Michigan. And his jazz record "archive" he took with him. What? Why? I know, I'm his stereo man, anyone ever asks.
That guy amassed music before the "disappearance." He said 25 would be all he could remember. Whatever that meant. Anyway, a call to France got him an entire Duke Ellington on Columbia LP set (1). He took that on the boat. What? 27 volumes, I forget, but he counts it as one. Strange guy, extravagant. Not Gilligan: he's Mr. Howell. The Centennial Edition of Duke Ellington's RCA Victor Recordings (2) was more compact on 24 discs. The red cover matched his hat.
Another thing he said while I was working for him, Jelly Roll Morton's Centennial Edition on RCA isn't complete, his friend told him that on the phone. I overheard. Some of the masters are alternates, what a goof! So he was carrying five of Morton's Red Hot Peppers collections on Classics (7). He took Louis Armstrong's Autobiography in Jazz on Decca or on CD, imported (8); Sidney Bechet's Complete Blue Note Recordings on Mosaic (9). He fussed over this the whole time I worked for him.
In fact, several Mosaics: Charles Mingus Complete Candid Recordings (10); Cecil Taylor's Candid Recordings (11); and Don Cherry's Complete Blue Note recordings (12). Let's see? There was Dave Brubeck's Time Signatures, Columbia Legacy (13); John Coltrane Complete at the Village Vanguard, Impulse (14); Monk's Genius of Modern Music, Vols. 1 & 2 on Blue Note (16); Rex Stewart with the Fletcher Henderson All Stars, Big Reunion, Jazztone (17).
I remember he only took Ornette Coleman's Town Hall Concert on ESP (18), maybe Sun Ra's The Magic City on Evidence (19), and the Art Ensemble 1966/67 on Nessa (20). Weird. Count Basie's Complete Decca Recordings, and Count Basie Orchestra plus Neal Hefti Arrangements, Roulette (22); The Quintessential Billie Holiday, Columbia Legacy (24); Miles Davis' Miles Ahead, Columbia Legacy (25). That was it.
I know that's all he took because I noticed he didn't have Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus on OJC. That and the Art Tatum/Ben Webster record from Pablo were all he'd listen to while we were testing the equipment I put in the cottage. Then he gave them to me. Nobody can see his place; it's hidden by sand. But I bet you'll be able to hear him if you send a boat out.
Sutton's Bay, MI