Third Story with special guest, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos practically tore the roof off of The Back Room at 98 Bottles last night with an exciting performance that bodes well for the future of jazz music, not just in the San Diego scene, but in the global sense as well.
Third Story has been performing once a year for the past four years, and was having a CD-release party for their self-titled disc which was recorded last August. Remarkably, the band had not played since then.
The group is led and organized by the protean young double bass phenomenon Danny Weller, who has surrounded himself with "young-lions", all in their mid-twenties, all stone cold virtuosi. On guitar, Jeff Miles is set to make some waves in the jazz world. He and Weller left San Diego for the larger opportunities available in New York, and both have been working up a storm in the Big Apple.
Pianist Joshua White has been the biggest story in the local music scene for the last year, well documented in all media. LA drummer Jens Kuross is, as Weller described, the "perfect drummer for this project," possessing an intricate ride cymbal technique and the ability to spur on each soloist into a higher level of expression.
The band and CD both reflect an appreciation for the sound and influence of famed German record label ECM's '70's and '80's oeuvre, an aesthetic that values equal instrumental clarity and use of non-traditional elements to create textures with an emphasis on space, and dynamics.
Beginning with a White original, "Illustrator," Weller's bass intro led the group into the pulsing throb that supported Castellanos' golden-toned flugelhorn reading of the melody. Weller's "Tree Of Thorns," featured an ostinato-driven free bop theme, which found White crashing chords over the roiling tom-tom knocking of Kuross. Miles approached his solo by courting dissonant intervals--and wiping them away with long streams of pure melody. Castellanos interpreted the form with a Freddie Hubbard like flair, pausing to squeeze and shape individual notes for emphasis.
Throughout the evening, the joy of making music was well evidenced in the ecstatic facial expressions of Miles and Weller, who seemed to be winning the lottery with each note that emerged from their consciousness. Their ebullience was so genuine, it was infectious.
Weller penned the uptempo Latin groove of "For Now," several years ago, when he was a member of the trumpeter's group. The head featured lots of tight unison between guitar and bass, and Weller leapt into his solo with a fleet-fingered, multi-note collage of deep ideas. Castellanos took it up a notch with long strands of layered phrases, even swooping up on some notes in the manner of a Kenny Wheeler. Miles and White traded 8's, each egging each other into deeper distortions of tonality.
Over gentle chords from White and volume-pedal coos from Miles, Castellanos' flugelhorn sketched out the theme to Weller's "There With You," with pensive gravitas. Miles attacked the relative stillness of the ballad with sequences that alternated between pure tonality and chromatic mayhem.
White continues to dazzle with his uncanny ability to juxtapose jangling tensions with lyrical achievements that are hard to believe are happening in the moment. His propensity for just the right chord and phrase make for a heavy, and rewarding listening experience.
The concert was taken to an even deeper level by the contributions of Castellanos, who fit the group like a glove, despite having not seen the music with much time to prepare. The trumpeter revealed that being "out of his comfort zone," afforded him fresh and unexpected creative opportunities. Castellanos, an obvious inspiration to his younger associates, hasn't even hit 40 himself, amazing when you consider the degree of mastery he has developed.
This is a remarkably balanced group of top-flight, adventurous improvisers exploring a rich vein of imaginative themes and original material.
Weller, White and Miles travel to NYC next week for a CD-release party at Caffe Vivaldi in Greenwich Village on March 9. Castellanos is off to Japan for a tour with legendary saxophonist Tom Scott. Meanwhile, the future of the music seems bright with cats like these at the helm.
Photo by Michael Klayman