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The San Diego jazz all-star aggregation known as Bop Moderno took the stage in The Back Room at 98 Bottles like conquering heroes and proceeded to lay it down for a sold-out house of enthusiastic supporters on July 6 -- conjuring up two hours of non-stop music.

Guitarist Peter Sprague's "Moot Point," opened the set with a long, intricate melody that capitalized on daredevil unisons, twisting ostinati and fully integrated drums. Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos hit first, slicing through the changes with tart filigree, long tones and a quote from "A Love Supreme." The burnished sound of Tripp Sprague's tenor followed -- billowing complexities masked by a remarkably relaxed delivery. Connecting related arpeggios with chromatic tissue, Peter's solo also created tension through a series of modal chord building that drummer Duncan Moore punctuated with jabs and counterpunches.

Trumpet and tenor wove rollicking counterpoint around each other on "Would You Like To Dance?", a Fats Waller inspired piece that found bassist Gunnar Biggs dropping a tough, time-centric solo before yielding to Castellanos, whose encyclopedic understanding of burbles and growls were perfect for the retro-vibe of the piece.

Dedicated to Castellanos, Sprague's "Gil's Glide," had the trademarked impossibly connected lines and buoyantly choreographed harmonic motion typical of the composer -- and a melody so catchy it had me imagining the Tijuana Brass hooking up with the Art Ensemble of Sao Paulo!

"Joe Farrell," began as a wicked duet between guitar and drums that seared with the exchange of swing energy before exploding with a three-way unison on the head, after which Castellanos leapt forward on Freddie Hubbard type velocity, while tenor and bass locked into tight spirals over the Atlas-like support of the drums. Taking the last solo, Sprague utilized an octave-splitting device to simulate the sound of a simultaneous guitar/bass exposition that morphed into a vamp eliciting a contribution from Moore that set off enough explosions to drown out the nightly Sea World fireworks show.

Photo by Bonnie Wright

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