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Gilbert Castellanos, Teodross Avery by TOM HARTEN

Trumpet virtuoso Gilbert Castellanos and the special quintet he assembled for last night's Lee Morgan tribute rocked the standing-room-only house at 98 Bottles with almost two hours of fire-breathing hard bop.

Much of Morgan's music fit comfortably into the category of blues-based bebop--he had a special melodic genius, though, that always made his work a cut above.

Double bassist Mike Gurrola opened "The Sidewinder," alone, with a short solo showcasing his big, thick sound, bathed in bluesy asides. After the head, Castellanos leapt into the fray with quicksilver runs, arresting repetitions and streams of eighth and sixteenth notes erupting into smears and growls. Tenor saxophonist Teodross Avery followed, creating his solo by layering ideas and building excitement slowly. Pianist Joshua White came next, distinguishing himself by beginning in decidedly free territory--alternating percussive clusters before whipping strands of pure melody into the night.

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Joshua White by TOM HARTEN

The fast modal swing of "Mr. Kenyatta," featured Avery first, slicing through the changes, weaving curlicues and positing low-honks that set up some effective screaming in the altissimo region. Castellanos proceeded slowly, pausing to sculpt individual tones with wide vibrato before rocketing into the upper register. White teased at the swing factor--spinning in and around it --slowing and accelerating the tempo--always breaking things up. Collectively the band traded explosive fours with drummer Kevin Kanner who kept the fires stoked.

On the medium slow blues, "Party Time," Gurrola led off the solos with a laconic spot, heavy on groaning slurs and pointed double-stops, while Castellanos went for fat, brassy note-squeezes, eventually dipping into the gut-bucket for growls and burbles. Avery responded by letting the drama drip slowly out of his horn, while White re-shuffled the blues-card-deck--revealing inside straits and royal flushes in the process.

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Kevin Kanner, Mike Gurrola by TOM HARTEN

White's pensive piano set the stage for the innate beauty of "Ceora," where Castellanos staked out the dark and piquant contours of his flugelhorn, quoting "Girl From Ipanema," for good measure. The lush harmonies of the tune fit Avery's relaxed élan and golden-hued tenor like a glove. White refracted the melody into Picasso-like abstractions before flowing into a deep lyricism.

The concert came to a close with a furious treatment of "Beehive," which Castellanos attacked like Navy Seals on Somali pirates. Taking a ten-minute bravura solo that pursued racing scales a la Freddie Hubbard, bending notes into submission--and generally taking no prisoners--the trumpeter set the bar very high. Avery followed with lava-hot squiggling lines punctuated by squeaks that eventually turned in to a gritty, grainy essay that wouldn't have been out of place on Coltrane's Sun Ship. White locked in with Kanner for a battleship fusillade of rhythmic volleys that led into a jaw-dropping drum solo that had the crowd screaming.

Castellanos and company clearly fed off of the kinetic energy of the packed house--and vice versa. This is what jazz should always be-- a fervent exchange of excited vibrations.

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