Edmar Castañeda Trio at the Jazz Standard
New York, New York
December 22, 2009
A sold-out room warmly greeted harpist Edmar Castañeda's trio as they took the stage opening their set with the up-tempo "Entre Cuerdas," the title track off the leader's new album. The tune began with a Middle Eastern feel, then quickly took on a Latin American character. Castañeda exhibited impressive mastery (there is no bassist in the band), and one could immediately sense his chemistry with bandmembers Marshall Gilkes (trombone) and Dave Sillman (percussion). As the song went on, there were attention-grabbing individual moments as the song shifted beats until its funk-inspired conclusion.
The band walked off the stage as Castañeda took an unaccompanied solo on his entrancing "Jesus de Nazareth," where he further showcased his prowess on the instrument. The tune's melody is mostly based on the bass strings, allowing him to improvise on the treble sounds. That was followed by a Flamenco-inspired section in which he was joined by legendary vibraphonist Joe Locke and Colombian-born percussionist Samuel Torres.
The tune began with a close duet between Locke and the bandleader, and then Locke immediately took the lead with his dazzling technique. Gilkes followed him by starting off with a softer approach that evolved into a more syncopated, note-filled groove. Another highlight came with "Colombian Dixie," another original, kicking off with Gilkes' trombone "growls" that then shifted to various beats, including a short cumbia section. All the musicians took advantage of these changes during their individual moments, especially Castaneda and Locke, who both performed with gusto, much to the appreciation of the audience.
Vocalist Andrea Tierra (Castañeda 's wife) joined the group for a a tune that was like a love letter to her native Colombia. She has a deep voice that sounds somewhere in between Lila Downs and the late Mercedes Soza, a timbre suiting the song to perfection. The set closed with "Song of Hope," which began with an spellbinding duet between Locke and Castaneda and ended with a call-and-response groove between the harpist and Samuel Torres' thumb piano.
As the concert ended, one could not help but notice how Locke and Castañeda work well together. The vibraphonist seemed to revel in playing Latin jazz, and Castaneda noticeably fed on that, often duelling with himinspired, extemporaneous musical communication that makes fans look forward to hearing them together again.