By Tony Gieske
Willie Jones III brought a couple of familiar homies, Eric Reed and Trevor Ware, to Catalina’s Tuesday night to herald the release of his new CD. But the guy who stole the show was his Mexican born trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos, who played faster than Arturo Sandoval, Dizzy Gillespie or Freddie Hubbard. Yes.
His astounding velocity enabled him to build bebop on top of bebop, with every microscopic cadenza vividly present in the ear.
Of course, he had some enlightened help: the pianist Eric Reed, out of the Wynton Marsalis hive by way of Los Angeles, his native burg, and Trevor Ware, one of Jones’s fellow Degnan Avenue habitues, who backs everybody in town on his warmhearted bass.
The repertoire came mainly from the scoring pad of Reed. It embraced a couple of his somewhat impatient ballads in three beat measure that were well on the way to tenderness, and a fine up-tempo tribute to the forgotten avant-garde pianist Herbie Nichols that formed one of the highlights of the evening.
Not to mention Sonny Rollins’ “Airigin,” the first number on which Castellanos left blood on the bandstand.
In addition to his classy comping, Reed played with intensity, scope and depth, bringing to mind Marsalis’s icon Duke Ellington here and there. He got to baiting Ware with quotes from Ahmad Jamal, and they enjoyed a laugh or two that were not shared by Jones or Castellanos, who stood for serious musicianship, thank you very much.
Now, I’ve been a fan of Willie Jones III since the 1980s, but on this night his mind seemed to be elsewhere. Not to say that he wasn’t full of his usual inspiring fireworks. He connected with the soloists as he always does, right on time with the stick tips, but he seemed to be overcompensating somehow.
Also, the CD he was plugging did not get released yet.
On the whole, though, you came away from the evening with gratitude. It would be foolish to say that bebop is coming back, since jazz has never given it up. But tonight seemed to say don’t you ever forget it.
Photos by Tony Gieske.
Read and see more of Tony Gieske’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site tonyspage.com.