Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, a Mexican native who has long called the U.S. home, has been an important contributor to groups such as Black/Note and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, along with playing in bands led by Willie Jones III, Anthony Wilson, and Bennie Wallace. But he is best appreciated as a leader, especially on this, his second release on his own. Inspired by many of the great hard bop bands of the 1960s and the post-bop groups of the following decades, Castellanos builds upon this legacy with potent solos and powerful compositions that prove very catchy. For these sessions, he joined forces with other southern California-based musicians, including pianist Mikan Zlatkovich, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Kevin Kanner. There is a lot of variety within Castellanos' original repertoire. His sauntering "Big Bad Wolff" conveys a bluesy feeling of despair that sounds as if it won't go away, while "High Febvre" is a blistering work that ought to be recorded live, also featuring a fine solo by promising young tenor saxophonist Tom Cantanzaro. Wilson adds his guitar to three selections, highlighted by the driving "Marlo" and Zlatkovich's pulsating tribute to Horace Silver, "This Is for Horace." He also revives Lee Morgan's unjustly neglected "Trapped," sounding like he would have easily fit in with any hard bop group you could name from the Blue Note era. Expect to hear great things in the future from Gilbert Castellanos.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden