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Gilbert Castellanos, and his weekly series at the Westgate Hotel, (every Friday), Some Of My Friends Are Piano Players is one of the best things to ever happen to the San Diego jazz scene. There are several factors that make this so, the incredible musicianship being foremost, closely followed by the acoustically superb setting, and the intimacy of a piano/trumpet/bass trio all factoring in.

Last night Geoffrey Keezer was the pianist of note, and with bassist Rob Thorsen, a new high was reached in the series. Keezer is an astonishing pianist with an incredible rhythmic acumen and endless stream of ideas at his disposal.

Opening with sparse ruminations on "Bag's Groove," there was an immediate feeling of metric support courtesy the sculpted, muscular and un-amplified bass of Thorsen, who provided a bed of time while Keezer decorated with attentive chords that spurred Castellanos to go deep into the blues with long tones, quick strikes and nuanced vibrato. Keezer's fingers flew across the keys in a dazzling harmonic slide-show made ecstatic by his precise subdivisions of the beat. Thorsen began with one-note stabs that birthed rubbery glissandi and flurries of activity--and you could hear every detail of his invention with absolute clarity.

The joy factor was already 100% when the three began a loose interpretation of "Johnny Come Lately," embedded with a lock-tight propulsion from piano and bass as the muted trumpet of Castellanos soared like a kite on a windy day. Keezer let parallel lines fly, through a constantly shifting chromatic prism at the speed of neurons firing. Thorsen's solo pulled thick, rope-like textures as he drew the listener in to a personal, interior dialog.

Castellanos is a master of the plunger-mute. He is able, through lip pressure and by keeping a tight seal of the rubber against his bell, to achieve a pure, Miles-ish Harmon Mute approximation, which transforms immediately into almost obscene gurgles and growls when he opens it up. He alternated between the two so effectively on "Delilah," it sounded like a heated lovers quarrel. Keezer's brain, and fingers move so fast, he was able to take a quote from "A Love Supreme," transpose it into 5 different zip codes, while three competing ideas bunched up against each other, waiting to let loose. My jaw dropped so hard and often, my chin still hurts.

On Keezer's solo feature, he spun florid, lyrical discourse with such drama that the unexpected, funky turn he took with a catchy ostinato worthy of Keith Jarrett elicited a chorus of gasps as somehow, "The Nearness of You," came out in a jaunty, Caribbean disguise.

Clearly, this was Keezer's night--I don't know of anyone involved in mainstream acoustic jazz who is his superior right now. That's a heavy statement, but after last night, I'm a believer.

Photo by Barbara Wise

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