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A standing room only crowd gathered for the debut performance by the Coast Bop quintet at 98 Bottles on August 10, drinking in the kinetic energy and virtuosity offered up by this unusual amalgamation of individuals.

Two members of the Coast Bop frontline are active-duty U.S. Marine's: trombonist Matt Hall and alto saxophonist Charlie Arbelaez; bassist Antar Martin is a veteran of the US Navy, pianist Irving Flores is a veteran of the music scene and only drummer Charles Weller is a true civilian.

Hall and Arbelaez sort of snuck on stage to begin "Spearhead," as an intense, extemporaneous duo. Sparks flew as each musician explored the entirety of their respective horns. One by one, Martin, Flores, and Weller arrived and began a dense vamp in support of the wild melody. Hall hit first, spitting out short blues declaratives lengthening into one continuous unbroken idea. Arbelaez countered with intense velocity, muscular projection and a wicked squeal. Flores rounded the bases with pneumatic hammering and lines that raced through the changes, followed a thick, time-centric Martin essay.

These cats love a burning tempo. Flores' "Estrellita," started out jumping over the tight propulsion of Martin and Weller, and reached escape velocity when the pianist double-timed his swing-your-ass-off solo. Arbelaez crowded in with Sonny Stitt-like alacrity and Hall followed with some stuff that seemed impossible in the trombone. This guy needs a slide-spray that doubles as a fire extinguisher.

It was a much needed relief when the band launched in to "This I Dig of You," as a medium tempo vehicle of expression, featuring Hall's rhythmic exuberance and a Martin feature that was all about the groove. The crowd really came alive for a funky, New Orleans style adaptation of "Love For Sale," and Flores turned "A Night In Mexicali" into a bizarre marriage of Chucho Valdez and Cecil Taylor before Hall astonished with some freakishly high notes on the 'bone.

My personal favorite came on the penultimate tune, Hall's "Thing About Sloan Hill," a delightfully drunken-sounding swaggering blues that motored along on the deep, Wilbur Morris-like groove of Martin, who also took his best solo of the evening. Following an limber and acrobatic alto solo, Hall and Flores locked into a sublime bluesy exchange.

Very impressive debut. These guys are in the middle of making their first record, stay tuned for details.

Photo by Mason Smith

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