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Saturday, Feb. 16, the Museum of Making Music presented the San Diego debut performance of Bop Moderno a newly formed unit featuring Peter Sprague on guitar, Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, Tripp Sprague on reeds Gunnar Biggs on bass and Duncan Moore on drums.

Expectations for a group with such stellar personnel were high, and as a result, the venue was sold-out several days in advance.

There is something magical about hearing the brothers Sprague perform together. Much of what I know about jazz was absorbed from hearing their band Dance of the Universe when they had a three-night-a-week residency for months at Elario's in La Jolla, some 30 years ago.

Including trumpet virtuoso Castellanos into the mix seemed like an inspired choice--borne out by the band's two sets of blistering, intricate post-bop expressions.

Opening with the episodic "Moot Point," which had more moods than a schizophrenic on acid, tenor sax and trumpet combined with tight unisons over the pinpoint guitar comping, throbbing bass and roiling percussion as brother Tripp staked out full-bodied storytelling and Castellanos strung laces of tart smears.

The surprisingly old-time feel of "Would You Like To Dance," featured a muted Castellanos, squeezing a sweet warbled vibrato as saxophonist Sprague lit into a warm Coleman Hawkins-ish solo. The guitarist began with a pure, distilled swing, activating a wonderful mix of sublime chords with waves of single-note ideas.

Sprague reached back to his first album to set the hard-bopping early Coltrane-flavored "Avenues," into motion, drawing bravura trumpet and saxophone statements before launching into an intense duet with Moore, the intensity ratcheting into a glorious free-exchange where the confines of the form began to disappear into waves of kinetic energy.

Gently rolling guitar arpeggios set the stage for the laid-back, gospel feel of "Calling Me Home," which drew a quavering, deeply felt bass solo from Biggs. Castellanos blew complex arabesques on another tune from the '80s, "Namaste," fueled by Moore's serenade of clacking rim-shots. Everyone but the drummer dropped out for the tenor solo-- a wild dance of breakneck ideas and yelping altissimo.

Castellanos led off "Joe Farrell," with a kaleidoscopic a cappella feature of extended trumpet/plunger mute technique-- conjuring burlesque overtones with growls, purrs, and squeals. The band entered, taking it into a surge of super freebop ecstasy, all gliding on the protean walking of Biggs and the intricate ride cymbals machinations of Moore.

I'm hoping to hear much more from these guys.

Peter Sprague by Barbara Wise

  • Jam Session alerts


donridgway Feb. 19, 2013 @ 10:41 p.m.

This was a sensational night of music from people who have been giving us great jazz for decades. Someone should do a Reader story on Peter, a major San Diego treasure. Gilbert too, actually.


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