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Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos returned to 98 Bottles last night for A Tribute to Thelonious Monk, earning a sold-out house in the process.

Fronting a solid quartet featuring two LA players, (drummer Dan Schenelle and bassist Katie Thiroux) alongside powerhouse pianist Joshua White, Castellanos ratcheted up the excitement quotient to an ecstatic level in an evening of instrumental highlights.

On "In Walked Bud," the trumpeter strung one tart, crystal clear phrase to another over the manic drums of Schenelle, who kept a constant roil boiling. White's melodic outburst maintained danger with frequent slabs of clustered repetition before handing off to Thiroux, who's excellent time-based spot was mostly lost due to an inadequate amplifier, boomy room and extreme ambience. There was no issue hearing Schnelle's solo--waves of ebullient and precise explosions that kept you leaning forward.

The jagged, angular strut of "Think Of One," brought out the extrovert in White, who was all over it: splayed hands flying over jangled keys--crowding the time into tight corners, then springing it free with long lines of effusion. Thiroux pedaled, thumped and got her Wilber Ware on, then Castellanos entered, spitting twisted multinote spirals into piercing yelps, squeezing certain notes with enough power to turn coal into diamonds. Schenelle followed with sticks dancing across the skins--starting fires but keeping the melody ringing in the ears all the way.

There was a fragmented flow to "Monk's Mood," that kept the theme coming at you from multiple angles. Over the elliptical propulsion of Schenelle, White emerged with rapturous velocity as ideas piled up upon each other--revealing a conceptual premise so bold and precise that all extraneous distractions--the tiny piano, the noisy adjacent bar--ceased to exist in the wake of the vortex summoned by his creativity.

Castellanos led off "Five Spot Blues," using the plunger mute to toggle between burlesque growls and gurgles and sweet skeins of alacrity. While Thiroux laid down implacable time in tandem with Schenelle's irresistible ride cymbal beat--White posited a tangential plane of reasoning that cut across the grain of the rhythm section before suddenly merging for a truly viscous course of swing. The bassist surfaced, over whispering brushes, singing unisons while pulling thick, rope like textures that finally transcended the volume issues. What began as "Five Spot," ended as the drunken stumble of "Blue Monk," enabling the horn-man `to revisit the deepest well of extended techniques for trumpet this side of the late Lester Bowie.

Photo by Jennifer Fischer

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