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Gilbert Castellanos: Espérame en el Cielo

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Gilbert Castellanos: Espérame en el Cielo
San Diego's Gilbert Castellanos has been an important and consequential force on the West Coast jazz scene for years. He has appeared on dozens of recordings and often shares the stage with Charles McPherson, Willie Jones III, Gerald Clayton and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. As an educator, Castellanos is the founder and artistic director of the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, teaching the legacy of jazz to middle and high school students. The long anticipated release of Espérame en el Cielo is Castellanos' first album as a leader in a decade.

The album consists of eight covers that reflect Castellanos' musical influences of hard bop players like Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and Lee Morgan as well as traditional Mexican ballads he grew up with in his youth. To kick-off the album, he selected a composition by Rene McLean, "Bilal As Sudan." The piece begins with a rousing intro from drummer Tyler Kreutel, with the horns leading up to a driving rhythmic pulse. Pianist Joshua White provides a forceful left handed counterpoint and darting right hand support to the fiery trumpet of Castellanos and alto sax of Christopher Hollyday. Next up, "Home is Africa," cools down the temperature with a slow groove introduced by bassist John Murray laying down a solid rhythm and bluesy feel. The title track and "La Puerta" are heartfelt ballads which reflect Castellanos' Mexican heritage and is played with a soulful emotion. Victor Feldman's "New Delhi" is indicative of West Coast Cool and Jimmy Heath's "Big P" shows off this quintet's ability to swing hard and offer breathtaking solos. Lee Morgan's "Totem Pole" contains some complex changes that the quintet execute flawlessly.

Castellanos gets great support from the rest of the band. Christopher Hollyday plays alto with the intensity of Jackie McLean and the fluidity of Cannonball Adderley. Tyler Kreutel is the go-to drummer in San Diego. His skill at listening to the players around him is impressive, as is the way he elevates the entire ensemble. Pianist Joshua White also arranged all the music on this album. He leads the rhythm section while comping uniquely innovative solos. The debut performance on a major album by 18 year old bassist John Murray is a product of the aforementioned Young Lions Jazz Conservatory and he currently is attending Juilliard. Murray is bound to be a force on the jazz scene in years to come.

The album is comprised of all covers, though uncommon ones. It would have been nice to include some original compositions, and perhaps an extended piece to allow the soloists to delve deeper into their ideas.

With the release of Espérame en el Cielo, Gilbert Castellanos has crafted an album that is a reflection of the San Diego jazz scene. It is rooted in the music of the hard-bop era with a wink toward West Coast cool and a nod to the Mexican culture at its border.

Track Listing

Bilad As Sudan; Home Is Africa; Espérame en el Cielo; Will You Still Be Mine; Totem Pole; New Delhi; La Puerta; Big P; Espérame en el Cielo (Bonus).

Personnel

Album information

Title: Espérame en el Cielo | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Z Note Records


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