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Lorraine Castellanos brought a stellar band, (including husband Gilbert), into 98 Bottles last night, where a standing-room-only crowd cheered on her Billie Holliday tribute--and in spite of a nasty cold--she pretty much nailed it.

The trumpeting Castellanos led pianist Ed Kornhauser, bassist Rob Thorsen, and drummer Brett Sanders through "Lover Come Back To Me," building his solo slowly, with repetitions, smears and a quote from "Jumpin With Symphony Sid." Kornhauser took the baton with fiercely swinging block chords--he seemed to be on fire all night--then Thorsen snuck in a spot heavy on the thick, meaty tones and slurred glissandi.

The vocalist ascended to the bandstand for "Mean To Me," and right off, you could hear the similarities in tone, timbre and phrasing with the legendary Holliday, without be cloying or slavish. She's got a natural approach to swing, and, even with a head-cold, her pitch is remarkably stable. Mr. Castellanos picked up the intensity with a gritty solo that climaxed in a text-book display of throttling vibrato. Kornhauser seemed to have slipped into a time-machine-- every solo rocked like Red Garland jousting with Teddy Wilson.

A Latin arrangement of "I Get A Kick Out Of You," didn't quite work for me-- Lorraine didn't seem to be in synch with her bandmates on this one-- and the duet with Kornhauser on "Gloomy Sunday," could have been more intimate--but those are minor quibbles in the overall picture.

Mrs. Castellanos and the band were hitting on all cylinders with "Fine & Mellow," interpreting lyrics with sly grace and setting up a wicked Thorsen arco solo, while her husband went all XXX-rated with a plunger mute feature that sent chills up my spine. Tenor saxophone legend Daniel Jackson arrived, assembled his horn and proceeded to blow everyone out of the water with a dramatic, unhurried piece of melodic mastery.

It was all clicking on the finale. with Jackson and tap-dance virtuoso Claudia Gomez joining the group for "Too Marvelous For Words," her feet propelling the swing with ebullient rat-a-tat-tats and knocking it out of the park on her solo.

The sold out crowd couldn't have been more appreciative and I'm looking forward to hearing what the dynamic duo of Lorraine and Gilbert Castellanos come up with next.

Photo by Laurent Kramer

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