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Bob McPhail 8:30 a.m., Aug. 17
Some of my friends are piano players, the concert series curated by trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, held each Friday night at the Westgate Hotel continues to be the jazz spot in San Diego.
The premise is solid: a different pianist every week comes down with the bassist of their choice and an opportunity to select the material. The absence of a drummer keeps the volume down, and the acoustic purity of the room allows each instrument to shine (mostly) without amplification.
Castellanos is the constant, relishing the chance to tackle new tunes and exploit his remarkable ability to play at a much softer dynamic. The trumpeter sounds different every week, this is a great way to experience the apparently limitless well of ideas at his disposal.
Last night was the second opportunity to hear young master Joshua White at the piano, alongside bassist Hamilton Price, who made a three and a half hour commute from LA.
White propelled the Latin-grooving "Mamacita," with a buoyant lilt, manning an effusive strike on the keys and juggling melodic sequences, with power and finesse. Castellanos was all over it, spinning long strands of notes and repeating key phrases before Price broke in with nimble facility. The out-chorus featured each musician upping the tension ante.
Thelonious Monk's "Bye-Ya," was next, an angular theme that transitions into a dreamy bridge. Castellanos stepped into the fray, whipping velocity into a frenzy and topping off with sculpted yelps. White's solo was all joyful dispensation--toggling the overtly melodious with the slyly discordant in a seamless fashion. What began as a purely muscular Price solo was taken to a higher plane with White's carefully considered prodding--rocketing the bassist into a dizzying flurry of upper register activity.
Castellanos plugged the Harmon mute in for "A Cottage For Sale", bobbing and weaving through the implacable beat of Price while White kept it all swinging. The pianist shattered and recast the component features of "Yesterdays" twisting each color into a dust-storm of activity before letting it all settle into the familiar theme while Price mixed impossibly fast runs with resonant whole notes and dripping double-stops.
"Portrait Of Jenny," represented the only chink in the armor--as Price's solid pizzicato intonation got kind of seasick when he turned to the bow on the melody. Hard to guess what was happening there--but it was a return to the sublime once he dropped it back into the quiver.
Masterful performance by three master musicians.
Photo by Bonnie Wright