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Saxophonist Gary Lefebvre is a significant part of the West Coast Jazz history, having played with many luminaries of the genre in the late fifties and sixties, when that term was still in vogue. This is a guy with Chet Baker, Gary Peacock, Shorty Rogers, Leroy Vinnegar and Shelly Manne in his c.v., among many others.

Aside from his annual birthday gig, he doesn't play in public much anymore, so the thought of him pairing up with local trumpet master Gilbert Castellanos to pay tribute to the groundbreaking music of the Chet Baker/ Gerry Mulligan Quartet Sunday night at 98 Bottles was tantalizing, indeed.

This was another Dizzy's production, organized by Chuck Perrin, who is still seeking a permanent location for the club that remains his raison d' etre.

Accompanied by the stellar rhythm section of Rob Thorsen on double bass and the first-call Duncan Moore on drums, Castellanos played trumpet and flugelhorn, while Lefebvre split his time on baritone and tenor saxophone. Like the famous Baker/Mulligan group, there wasn't a piano involved.

Opening with the light bop of "Bernie's Tune," Lefebvre soloed first, demonstrating a chocolate smooth legato and an innate ability to tell a story over Thorsen's percolating bass and the relentless pinging of Moore's surefire ride cymbal. Thorsen unwrapped a measured, logical essay, then Castellanos and Moore traded eights. Castellanos came out of the exchange temporarily subdued, his fire, however could not be contained for long.

Mulligan's "Westwood Walk," followed, and while the theme isn't too deep, the trumpeter cut right to the chase--slicing and dicing through the changes with fluidity and grace, quoting Dizzy Gillespie and movie fanfares for good measure. Lefebvre performed sitting down, apparently to concentrate his energy on his propensity for delivering detailed, Lester Young inspired improvisations. There was a powerhouse exchange with Moore, who exploded with drumset commentary more similar to Frank Butler or Woody "Sonship" Theus than Manne or Chico Hamilton.

In the end, I think the Mulligan/ Baker tribute was more of an excuse to dream up a concert to allow Castellanos to feature his friend and mentor, because the most compelling music came from outside the tribute box, whether it was a romp through "Just Friends," or a workout on the Bb blues.

In fact, the highpoint of the evening for me was the quartet reading of Gillespie's "Tin Tin Deo," which began with an incredibly grooving Afro-Cuban drum vamp from Moore, full of multiple rim-shots and cowbell hits. Castellanos chose to deliver an expository on the use of the plunger-mute--something he does better than almost anyone alive today. Wicked growls, half-valve stutters and elephant call smears came rolling out his horn, as the trumpeter proved the inherent link between the blues and Latin music.

Lefebvre told a few Chet Baker stories, and once again held the audience in rapt attention as he navigated the changes to "Line For Lyons," coming up with consistently inventive ways of dealing with the form.

It's always great to hear a master, and Lefebvre earned that title 50 years ago. It was well worth the driving in the rain, and even the sonic distraction of the two middle-aged women who apparently were oblivious to the personal volume of their offensive and non-stop conversation throughout the later portion of the evening. Music and musicians of this stature deserve an attentive audience, however, no amount of turning around to stare holes into these two proved effective.

Go figure.

Photo by Bonnie Wright

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Comments

nicegirl1 March 28, 2012 @ 8:31 a.m.

Mr. Bush fails to admit that his ringing cell phone went off during the performance at which point he had to dig into his pockets and then it fell to the floor. The good seats I thought I had were no match for this man and his shoulder pads. I then had to sit very close to someone I did not know to try and see. She asked me a question about the players. Which I answered. Mr. Bush and his companion were rude from the moment they arrived at the show. The companion never shut off her phone and it was very distracting as she was constantly checking it. But because they are all important they are allowed to do this. The show was wonderful and I have known Gary for a long time. These folks ruined my night as well and I was paying for mine. Point taken and lesson learned.

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