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Castellanos, Wofford & Price: dazzling at the Westgate

Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos held the second show of his every-Friday-until-New Years concert series, Some of my friends are piano players last night at the Westgate Hotel--this time featuring jazz piano hero Mike Wofford and LA bass monster Hamilton Price in a stunning display of improvised communication at the highest level.

The concerts are held in a very small, ornate room with killer acoustics. The performance was unamplified-- and as soon as they began playing--the sound of Price's acoustic bass--(I could hear the wood of his instrument--the rattle of his strings)--took me into an out-of-body experience that I never recovered from.

Castellanos opened "Green Chimneys," with patient phrase-building, constructing a brilliant invention of warm curlicues and leaning toward a climax of trills that roused the audience. Wofford, super clear and concise--crafted lyric themes that flirted with the blues and moved with irresistible motion. When the space for Price emerged--he attacked it with deep, throaty elasticity--balancing lightning-strike runs with smearing glissandi--swinging every step of the way, and making each note count.

Sharing an implied, but synchronous sense of time, the trio lit into "If I Were A Bell," with the same relaxed motion that I remember from the Miles Davis Prestige recordings--with a modern perspective. Sometimes the greatest joy from Wofford comes from just hearing the way he voices his chords--providing Castellanos with a springboard of maximum flexibility over which to conjure one killing phrase after another--pausing occasionally to sculpt a note, dip into the gutbucket, or sneak a quote from a myriad of standards. Wofford's solo layered golden lines organized with architectural logic to ramp up the joy-factor to 100. Price synthesized the fat, slurs of Sam Jones with the alacrity of Gary Peacock, for another thrilling exposition that made me think he might be the best young player I've heard in a long time.

These guys pulled all of this off despite having never performed as a trio--without benefit of sheet-music or rehearsal--as only true masters of the art form can. Castellanos wants to leave 90% of the decisions about material and choice of bass players up to the visiting pianist so that, "Every night is an adventure for me," said the trumpeter.

The only drawback of this gig is also its prime attraction: the room accommodates about 40 listeners. That makes for about as intimate listening experience as one could hope for...but the 20 or so people trying to watch from outside last night might disagree.

I got there about 45 minutes early, and since next week's show features Joshua White and Rob Thorsen, I would recommend a similar strategy. If the room continues to fill up, Castellanos thinks they might move the series to an upstairs ballroom. That would be sweet.

Photo by Barbara Wise

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Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos held the second show of his every-Friday-until-New Years concert series, Some of my friends are piano players last night at the Westgate Hotel--this time featuring jazz piano hero Mike Wofford and LA bass monster Hamilton Price in a stunning display of improvised communication at the highest level.

The concerts are held in a very small, ornate room with killer acoustics. The performance was unamplified-- and as soon as they began playing--the sound of Price's acoustic bass--(I could hear the wood of his instrument--the rattle of his strings)--took me into an out-of-body experience that I never recovered from.

Castellanos opened "Green Chimneys," with patient phrase-building, constructing a brilliant invention of warm curlicues and leaning toward a climax of trills that roused the audience. Wofford, super clear and concise--crafted lyric themes that flirted with the blues and moved with irresistible motion. When the space for Price emerged--he attacked it with deep, throaty elasticity--balancing lightning-strike runs with smearing glissandi--swinging every step of the way, and making each note count.

Sharing an implied, but synchronous sense of time, the trio lit into "If I Were A Bell," with the same relaxed motion that I remember from the Miles Davis Prestige recordings--with a modern perspective. Sometimes the greatest joy from Wofford comes from just hearing the way he voices his chords--providing Castellanos with a springboard of maximum flexibility over which to conjure one killing phrase after another--pausing occasionally to sculpt a note, dip into the gutbucket, or sneak a quote from a myriad of standards. Wofford's solo layered golden lines organized with architectural logic to ramp up the joy-factor to 100. Price synthesized the fat, slurs of Sam Jones with the alacrity of Gary Peacock, for another thrilling exposition that made me think he might be the best young player I've heard in a long time.

These guys pulled all of this off despite having never performed as a trio--without benefit of sheet-music or rehearsal--as only true masters of the art form can. Castellanos wants to leave 90% of the decisions about material and choice of bass players up to the visiting pianist so that, "Every night is an adventure for me," said the trumpeter.

The only drawback of this gig is also its prime attraction: the room accommodates about 40 listeners. That makes for about as intimate listening experience as one could hope for...but the 20 or so people trying to watch from outside last night might disagree.

I got there about 45 minutes early, and since next week's show features Joshua White and Rob Thorsen, I would recommend a similar strategy. If the room continues to fill up, Castellanos thinks they might move the series to an upstairs ballroom. That would be sweet.

Photo by Barbara Wise

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