Lorraine Castellanos

Lorraine Castellanos: Guitar (acoustic), Vocals

Genre: Blues & Soul, Jazz, Latin | Tejano

RIYL: Billie Holiday, Berta Rojas, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington

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Influences: Billie Holiday, Fred Benedetti, Etta James, John Williams, Andres Segovia, Berta Rojas, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington


Singer/guitarist Lorraine Castellanos is equally at home with blues, jazz, soul, R&B, or Latin-influenced music. Having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music and a Music Teaching Credential from San Diego State University, Castellanos has also studied Classical Guitar Performance under the tutelage of Fred Benedetti.

With eclectic taste in, and extensive knowledge of, multiple genres of music, Ms. Castellanos derives pure pleasure when interpreting, on guitar, the works of great Latin American and Western European composers.

Castellanos has also been exploring the romantic music of Latin America in a project with her husband, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, and percussionist Carlos Vasquez. Their ensemble revives romantic boleros from South and Central America, and translates the repertoire with arrangements by Kamau Kenyatta, the group’s pianist.

In 2016, she debuted a new sextet featuring Robert Dove on saxophone, Ed Kornhauser on piano, Dean Hulett on bass, Ryan Shaw on drums, and at various times either husband Gilbert Castellanos or Curtis Taylor on trumpet. “I still feel like I’m juggling when I sing and play the guitar at the same time. It feels good to just be singing, because I feel that I’m better at it and I’ve spent more time at it. With the guitar, you always have to sit down and find a place to practice — with your voice you can just practice all the time, which I do. I’m singing in the grocery store — I don’t care. But I also find joy playing classical guitar in the living room.”

Additionally, Castellanos frequently worked with bassist Evona Wacinski and tap-dancer/percussionist Claudia Gomez, in the Latin/classical/jazz trio Besos de Coco. Covering Latin American classics and lesser-known American standards, as well as performing original compositions, the group was reconfigured in late 2017 by Wascinski and Gomez, without Castellanos, as the Besos Trio, with new guitarist Beston Barnett (Zzymzzy Quartet, Flimz).

“I needed to start a new chapter,” Castellanos told the Reader. “There was no dustup or drama; we are all still really close friends, which actually made it really hard to leave. I love those two and feel so lucky to have played with them for more than five years.”

2018 found Castellanos doing duo gigs with guitarist Bob Boss, as well as pianists Bobby Cressey and Irving Flores, and trio gigs at the Westgate with bassist Dean Hulett. Moving away from a classical guitar regimen was also part of the plan.

“I used to practice eight hours a day just to keep my chops, working on Bach and other composers. Now I’m really tapping into the language of jazz again and what my version of that sounds like. I feel most free and confident doing that.”

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