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San Diego trumpet master Gilbert Castellanos is always involved in giving back to the jazz community, and the June 22 performance of "The Young Lions," at Dizzy's emerged as another classic example of this generosity.

Castellanos introduced a quintet of mostly local teenaged musicians, all of them up-and-comers, and let them do their own thing, only joining forces on the last two tunes.

It was a great opportunity for these players to get a high-profile gig under the time-honored tradition of a "sink-or-swim" dynamic -- and I'm happy to report that nobody sank, although there was some dog-paddling at times.

That's exactly how you learn this music, though, by going out and testing your strengths, facing your weaknesses and trying to survive.

Tenor saxophonist Nathan Collins counted off "Red Top," (perhaps a little too slow for maximum flow), but he hit the gates running with multiple ideas couched in classic blues ornamentation. LA pianist Joel Wenhardt followed with very clear motives framing a logical exposition before yielding to alto saxophonist Kyle Myers, a young man with a big, piercing sound.

18 year-old drummer Ryan Shaw's press-rolls dominated the surge of "Caravan," assisting Wenhardt in creating a more confident solo and perhaps driving Myers toward a delightful ripping squeal into the upper register .

Young Myers chose his own original for his feature -- a bold move that showcased a mellower, sort of Paul Desmond facet of his talent, and I especially enjoyed the piano solo, which quoted "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," briefly.

Bassist Max Vinetz chose Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge," as his contribution, opening with an a cappella upright episode that culminated with a remarkable duet between alto saxophone and drums that seemed inspired to me.

Castellanos took the stage for "Bernie's Tune," and it was amazing how much the band coalesced around his sterling example -- drawing an exuberant solo from Collins, another drum duet with trumpet and a piano solo that quoted Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," for good measure.

Pretty amazing, when you consider that at 18, Shaw was the senior member of the group.

Photo courtesy John Shaw

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