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When San Diego trumpet master Gilbert Castellanos performs Latin jazz, it's usually in the context of his New Latin Jazz Quintet, at the El Camino in Little Italy, or Croce's in the Gaslamp.

That group features in essence, two drummers acting as one: Mike Holguin on the traps, and Charlie Chavez on percussion.

On Friday, at Dizzy's, Castellanos organized a group of an entirely different nature to explore other facets of Latin jazz--less explosive, perhaps, but no less compelling.

Handling the percussive chores was the amazing tap-dance artist Claudia Gomez-Vorce, who gives the group it's namesake: Jazz On Tap.

Joining Gomez-Vorce was Castellanos regular Irving Flores on piano, Lorraine Castellanos on voice and guitar, and Evona Wascinski on doublebass.

The concert began with the swing-era classic, "Stompin' At The Savoy" after the bassist established a cool groove. Lorraine Castellanos pumped fresh blood into the well-worn melody and, when the trumpeter entered, the band shifted effortlessly into double time.

Powering the ensemble though it all was the astonishing footwork of Gomez-Vorce. Flores' piano solo constantly engaged the dancer --egging her on to finish his repeated quotes from the Monk classic, "Straight No Chaser."

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A Castellanos tune dedicated to the dancer followed and this time Flores let loose with a dense proclamation that seemed fused of equal parts McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea--thunderous power laced with rococo ornamentation.

The trumpeter left the stage for Wascinski, Gomes-Vorce, Flores and vocalist Castellanos to examine a Brazilian tune in almost chamber-jazz fashion. The percussionist dragged her heels along the concrete floor to elicit the sound of the guiro and the bassist led the way, while Castellanos' vocals soared over the changes.

Wascinski has a thick, buttery sound and very solid time. She didn't solo much, but her groove was always there.

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The pianist has got a solid sense of the history of the instrument, and when he and the trumpeter performed a duo on the standard "Lover", he made sparks fly with an almost Art Tatum like display of stride piano.

On the closer, "Caravan", Castellanos delivered an essay in plunger-mute dynamics--evoking everyone from Bubber Miley to avant-garde master Lester Bowie, all while swinging his ass off.

Hats off to Castellanos for assembling such an unusual group. It's a nice change to see three strong women in a jazz quintet-- and substituting a tap dancer for the drummer was an inspired choice.

photos by Thomas Westerlin

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