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Gilbert Castellanos might just be the most exciting trumpet player working in the jazz mainstream today. He attacks the bebop sound structure with enough passion and precision to consistently breathe life into forms more than 60 years old.

Last night. Castellanos assembled a special group under the moniker of Night of the Cookers, a reference to a Freddie Hubbard/ Lee Morgan collaboration from 1965.

James Zollar was the guest of honor. Zollar has been in NYC so long, it's easy to forget he was once a part of the San Diego jazz scene way back when. Versatility is key to the trumpeter's success--he's played with everyone from the Duke Ellington Band, to Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy as well as, Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Rounding out the group were some ringers: on organ Pete Kuzma and on drums, Duncan Moore.

Starting out with the Chuck Israels blues, "Double Clutching," Castellanos and Zollar demonstrated a nice contrast on the head with open/muted horns. The relaxed tempo proved fertile ground for Castellanos to construct a perfectly paced solo that spun filigree around the changes. Zollar's follow up defined the difference--his tone is more acidic, and his lines break-up nicely across all registers. Kuzma's spot was a model of patience--putting it together one Larry Young-inspired brick at a time--while Moore kept things interesting with constant snare and tom chatter.

Clifford Brown's "George's Dilemma," featured revolving 8 bar sections of Latin and swing material--navigated with intricate brushstrokes by Castellanos and the sublime organ chords of Kuzma.

Over the familiar tones of the "Westminster Chimes," Zollar and Castellanos laid out the almost-baroque melody of Donald Byrd's "Childs Play," with obvious enthusiasm. After thrilling individual solos, the two trumpet-masters engaged in a series of traded 8's that sounded like the work of one huge brain.

On his flugelhorn feature, "Once In A While," Castellanos tugged at the heartstrings while sneaking in quotes from "'S Wonderful," and "Summertime," for good measure.

Ryan Kisor's chugging modal, "Battle Cry," featured an absolutely burning organ solo, which effectively became a duet with Moore, who set waves of explosive percussion gestures into motion.

Zollar's solo feature was the old trumpet warhorse, "I Can't Get Started With You," made personal with remarkable shifts from "straight" horn dynamics to sputtering growls that seemed almost inhuman.

For the closer, "Bob's Place," by Freddie Hubbard, local trumpeter John Reynolds joined the group for a furious romp that featured Castellanos burning down the house. Reynolds, Zollar, Kuzma and Moore rose to the occasion with fervent solos of their own.

Photo by Barbara Wise

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