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Gilbert Castellanos presents Melissa Morgan @ 98 Bottles

Trumpet master Gilbert Castellanos put together a ridiculously sublime quartet of top-flight musicians for what will surely constitute a high ranking in the "concert-of-the-year" list last night at 98 Bottles. With players spanning multiple generations, this could have easily fell into an unfocused "jam-session" vibe that grabbed for the lowest-common-denominator, instead, it reached for the highest level of ecstatic communication between equals.

The ostensible star was visiting vocalist Melissa Morgan, a name I was inexcusably unfamiliar with. Morgan is that rare singer in command of every salient variable--irrefutable pitch, stunning nuance, jaw-dropping power and phrasing that swings at any tempo.

Opening as a trio, Castellanos, the all-knowing bassist Marshall Hawkins and the soon to be New York guitar phenomenon Graham Dechter approached "Green Chimneys," with a relaxed and buoyant swing. The trumpeter built patient lines from short declaratives into ever widening essays of intricate thoughts. Dechter, who is very young, put together a statement of clean-toned arpeggios laced with blues asides with the maturity of someone twice his age.

Riding on the magic carpet created by Hawkins' quarter note pulse on an unannounced title, Castellanos and Dechter traded short solos of expertly crafted ideas, then Hawkins produced a show-stopper that began with the sparsest of materials before delineating a complete and compelling story that balanced cogent dialog with creative use of silence.

Morgan took the stage to knock "All Of Me," all the way to Dodger Stadium. Somehow, she manages to balance an almost Billie Holiday sense of vulnerability with an astonishing projection that sent notes vibrating into the rafters.

Shirley Horn's "Some Of My Best Friends Are The Blues," came off with a slinky strut that maximized the power of its witty lyrics, and Castellanos jumped all over it with a wicked plunger-mute solo that growled like a dog guarding a bone.

None

Over the "Charleston," groove of "Is You Is, Or Is You Aint My Baby," Morgan laid out sly nuance while Castellanos and Dechter wove short, blues-drenched solos around her.

The true test for a young virtuoso is how they handle a ballad, and, when Morgan launched into a breathtaking, heart-wrenching reading of "The Nearness Of You," I felt my brain chemistry alter in ways that no singer, save Joni Mitchell has touched. Bringing a completely new sense of phrasing to the well-worn ballad, Morgan had me hanging on every word, then Castellanos took over with a languid flugelhorn solo that didn't dilute the poignancy.

Dechter and Morgan took the Jobim classic "Chega de Saudade," alone, together, and to no surprise, the singer was able to bob and weave through the tricky melody and communicate in Portuguese with a breezy dexterity. Dechter provided a classic and sublime propulsion and took a startlingly clear focused solo himself.

There wasn't a slow moment throughout the 90 minute set--and when it all distilled down to an improvised cadenza between Morgan and the ever-resourceful Hawkins--a joyous sense of satisfaction took over, and the packed-solid house at 98 Bottles erupted with applause.

Photos by Jamie Shadowlight

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Trumpet master Gilbert Castellanos put together a ridiculously sublime quartet of top-flight musicians for what will surely constitute a high ranking in the "concert-of-the-year" list last night at 98 Bottles. With players spanning multiple generations, this could have easily fell into an unfocused "jam-session" vibe that grabbed for the lowest-common-denominator, instead, it reached for the highest level of ecstatic communication between equals.

The ostensible star was visiting vocalist Melissa Morgan, a name I was inexcusably unfamiliar with. Morgan is that rare singer in command of every salient variable--irrefutable pitch, stunning nuance, jaw-dropping power and phrasing that swings at any tempo.

Opening as a trio, Castellanos, the all-knowing bassist Marshall Hawkins and the soon to be New York guitar phenomenon Graham Dechter approached "Green Chimneys," with a relaxed and buoyant swing. The trumpeter built patient lines from short declaratives into ever widening essays of intricate thoughts. Dechter, who is very young, put together a statement of clean-toned arpeggios laced with blues asides with the maturity of someone twice his age.

Riding on the magic carpet created by Hawkins' quarter note pulse on an unannounced title, Castellanos and Dechter traded short solos of expertly crafted ideas, then Hawkins produced a show-stopper that began with the sparsest of materials before delineating a complete and compelling story that balanced cogent dialog with creative use of silence.

Morgan took the stage to knock "All Of Me," all the way to Dodger Stadium. Somehow, she manages to balance an almost Billie Holiday sense of vulnerability with an astonishing projection that sent notes vibrating into the rafters.

Shirley Horn's "Some Of My Best Friends Are The Blues," came off with a slinky strut that maximized the power of its witty lyrics, and Castellanos jumped all over it with a wicked plunger-mute solo that growled like a dog guarding a bone.

None

Over the "Charleston," groove of "Is You Is, Or Is You Aint My Baby," Morgan laid out sly nuance while Castellanos and Dechter wove short, blues-drenched solos around her.

The true test for a young virtuoso is how they handle a ballad, and, when Morgan launched into a breathtaking, heart-wrenching reading of "The Nearness Of You," I felt my brain chemistry alter in ways that no singer, save Joni Mitchell has touched. Bringing a completely new sense of phrasing to the well-worn ballad, Morgan had me hanging on every word, then Castellanos took over with a languid flugelhorn solo that didn't dilute the poignancy.

Dechter and Morgan took the Jobim classic "Chega de Saudade," alone, together, and to no surprise, the singer was able to bob and weave through the tricky melody and communicate in Portuguese with a breezy dexterity. Dechter provided a classic and sublime propulsion and took a startlingly clear focused solo himself.

There wasn't a slow moment throughout the 90 minute set--and when it all distilled down to an improvised cadenza between Morgan and the ever-resourceful Hawkins--a joyous sense of satisfaction took over, and the packed-solid house at 98 Bottles erupted with applause.

Photos by Jamie Shadowlight

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Comments
1

I couldn't agree with you more. What an amazing night of music!

July 2, 2012

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