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Women in jazz have been a source of interest for me ever since I bought Jean Luc Ponty's Aurora back in 1977, and saw that Patrice Rushen was the pianist on the date.

Last night, Besos de Coco, a trio comprised of Lorraine Castellanos on guitar and vocals, Evona Wascinski on double bass, and Claudia Gomez on taps made their debut live performance before a standing-room-only crowd at 98 Bottles.

That's right, I said taps. Gomez is a masterful tap dancer, and the sounds she makes with her feet are the main source of percussion for this group--(Wascinski occasionally treats her bass like a huge conga for good measure.)

These three women constitute a sublime collaboration: Castellanos has an amazingly clear and emotive voice and is growing as a guitar performer; Wascinski's sense of time is rock solid and her timbre is dark and personal; what Gomez does with her feet makes one hear the sounds of jazz drumming, Spanish castanets, even maracas and the sounds of swirling brushes.

They began with the almost formal sounding "Tempestad," featuring unison guitar/bass runs and a fine Wascinski solo.

The bolero, "Obsession," was next with a hypnotic ostinato over Gomez's chattering taps, before Castellanos' lithe and pitch perfect vocal stole the stage.

They explored the "Charleston," era swing with "If I Had You," an original by Wascinski, who lead the way with honey-toned timbre while Gomez evoked brushes-on-a-snare, somehow, with her feet. The bass solo was yearning, poignant and centered, throughout.

Performing as a duo, Castellanos and Wascinski nailed Jobim's "How Insensitive," as an aching ballad,--the vocalist has a keen vulnerability that falls somewhere between Billie Holliday and Nora Jones.

Gilbert Castellanos joined the group for a wicked romp through "In A Mellow Tone," providing crazy, warbled and growling commentary on plunger-muted trumpet--tossing in quotes from "Things Aint What They Used To Be," for good measure.

Given that this was Besos de Cocos, inaugural performance, there were, naturally, some bugs to be worked out--however, this a potent combination of brilliant musicians tapping a deep, untouched well of musical possibilities. I look forward to hearing more of them, soon.

photo by Laurent Kramer

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