Al Vega Collection
Al Vega was born in Worcester in 1921, and his family moved to Chelsea shortly thereafter. He started playing the piano when he was five years old, and he quickly found that music would compete for his time and attention with his love of baseball. This is a competition that has lasted to this day.
“I almost gave up music when I was in high school. I was too busy with sports,” Vega said.
Bored with a classical piano repertoire, Vega started performing popular and jazz music professionally with area big bands while in high school. After graduating from Chelsea High School in 1939, he attended Northeastern University for a year, primarily to play baseball. While at Northeastern, the excitement of performing with the best bands in the area took hold, and he approached his mother with the news that he wanted to be a musician. His mother replied, “Well, if you want to be a musician, be a good one.”
He then transferred to New England Conservatory of Music for serious studies while he continued to gig throughout New England. He took his mother’s advice to heart and has been one of the best musicians ever since.
Vega was drafted into the Army in 1942, and, while stationed at Camp Lee in Virginia, he met his wife-to-be, Martha. He and Martha were married in 1945, and, after his release from the service in 1946, they settled down in the Boston area. Vega resumed his music career and formed his own trio to perform bebop at the Ken Club in the old Hotel Bradford.
In 1950, he took over as the house pianist at the Hi Hat club in Boston, performing seven nights per week. The previous house pianist was Thelonious Monk. While at the Hi Hat, he had the opportunity to perform with Billy Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ray Brown, Lester Young, Miles Davis, Percey Heath and Kenny Clark, among others.
As if his gig at the Hi Hat couldn’t suffice as a huge lifetime accomplishment, Vega went on to form another trio to perform as the house trio at George Wein’s Storyville jazz club in Boston. This new trio included Slam Stewart on bass and Roy Haynes on drums, who both went on to hall of fame jazz careers.
From the 1950s on, Vega maintained his trio and made his living performing at various venues through New England. His trio has included some very interesting characters over the years, including Alf Clausen, who performed as Al’s bass player for a year. Clausen went on to a hugely successful career in Hollywood composing music for movies and television shows. Among his extensive credits, Clausen has composed the music and theme songs for The Simpsons and Moonlighting, for which he won multiple Emmy awards.
Vega’s current trio includes Dave Zox on bass and Rick Klane on drums.
Starting in 1975 Vega had a very popular residency at the Airport Hilton in Boston. He worked there, with his trio, seven nights a week, and, on certain nights, he featured an emerging vocalist. Some of the up-and-comers that he featured included Rebecca Parris, Donna Byrne, Tierney Sutton, Semenya McCord and Paula Cole!
Al Vega continues be one of the busiest musicians in New England. In addition to Lucky’s Lounge, his trio performs regularly at venues in the Boston area, including The Copley Marriott (Wednesdays), Les Zygomates (two Saturdays per month), The Beehive Boston, The Stockyard, Antonia's at Revere Beach (Fridays) and Vinalia. His latest trio will also be the house band for Galaxy Cruises’ second annual Swing Into Spring tribute to Sinatra Cruise, featuring Master of Ceremonies Ron Della Chiesa. The cruise leaves from Ft. Lauderdale on March 30 for a seven night voyage through the Southeastern Caribbean