May 28, 2024

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Double CD reviews: Joe Castro – San Jose’s Mojo and Passion Flower: For Doris Duke 2020: Videos, CD covers

Passion Flower: For Doris Duke

Sunnyside Records presents the second boxed set of recordings from the archive of pianist Joe Castro, a diverse collection featuring incredible and never heard performances from legends like Paul Bley, Paul Motian, Leroy Vinnegar, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones and many more.

Joe Castro’s love for jazz, and his charming personality, made it possible for the pianist to become intimately involved with musicians of all stripes and abilities. Castro’s relationship with the famous heiress Doris Duke afforded him the financial means to further his relationships with these musicians in jam sessions held at home studios at Duke’s residences, Falcon Lair in California and Duke Farms in New Jersey, and to later record albums of his own work with incredible sidemen and projects led by these acquaintances and friends.

The initial Joe Castro boxed set, Lush Life – A Musical Journey (Sunnyside, 2015), provided an insight into the world of the pianist’s early meetings with the greats of jazz at home recorded sessions. These recordings included Buddy Collette, Chico Hamilton, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Lucky Thompson. The box also included a couple of sessions recorded for potential release on Castro and Duke’s Clover label, including a Castro Big Band and the Teddy Edwards Tentet.

The second boxed set of recordings from Joe Castro’s collection, Passion Flower – For Doris Duke, highlights his collaborations with a vast array of incredible musicians. There are fine home recordings of jam sessions, studio recordings of Castro’s Atlantic Records releases, recordings of projects of friends and productions that were done under the aegis of Clover Records, the label that Duke and Castro founded and briefly ran.

The first disc is entitled Trios 1955-1956 – The Artist’s Choice. The program features seventeen tracks recorded at Duke and Castro’s Falcon Lair residence in Beverly Hills, California. All of the tracks feature Castro on piano with the aid of fantastic jazz legends and rhythm men. The ensembles feature combinations of bassists Leroy Vinnegar, Red Mitchell and Paul Chambers and drummers Jimmy Pratt, Lawrence Marable and Philly Joe Jones.

The second disc is Joe Castro’s Friends – At Duke Farms 1956. The disc provides never before heard solo selections from piano great Paul Bley, a full seventeen years before his classic solo recording, Open To Love. There are also pieces performed by Bley with his touring trio of bassist Hal Gaylor and drummer Lennie McBrowne. The other half of the program features recordings for a never realized project of Flo and George Handy, with five tracks of the duo and three with vocalist Flo fronting a twelve piece orchestra directed by composer/arranger George Handy.

The third disc is Joe Castro’s Mood Jazz with Voices & Strings – The Atlantic Album +, which contains the pianist’s first commercial release, Mood Jazz, which was released in 1957, along with previously unissued alternate takes. The album features the arranging of Ray Ellis and Neal Hefti along with musical accompaniment by well-known musicians like drummer Philly Joe Jones, trumpeter Nat Adderley and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley.

The fourth disc is Castro’s Groove Funk Soul – The Atlantic Album +, which is his second Atlantic recording, which was released in 1960, along with a number of previously unissued alternate takes. The ensemble is a fantastic one, featuring saxophonist Teddy Edwards, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Billy Higgins.

The fifth disc is an unreleased Joe Castro Trio session from 1965 entitled The Sidewalks of New York. The recording is special as it highlights the performances of Castro with his longtime friend, drummer Paul Motian. Teddy Kotick is also featured as the Trio’s bassist.

The sixth disc is Remind Me, a project that Castro conceived for Clover Records in 1965, and worked on through 1966, when the label folded. The recordings feature Castro’s trio of bassist Kotick and drummer Motian alone for half of the tracks, which were recorded in New York in April 1965. Castro took the recordings back to Los Angeles where he added horns with the aid of the Bob Cooper Ensemble, featuring trumpeter Al Porcino, woodwind players Gabe Baltzar, Cooper, Bill Holman, Bill Green and Bill Hood on a number of them. Teddy Edwards can be heard on Gaines and Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me)” and the rare piano stylings of Doris Duke, herself, are likely heard on Billy Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower” and Kern and Fields’s “Remind Me.”

1. Joe Castro – It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) (2:51)
2. Joe Castro – Blues for Nat (3:24)
3. Joe Castro – Minuet in Jazz (3:08)
4. Joe Castro – They Can’t Take That Away from Me (3:45)
5. Joe Castro – St. Louis Blues (3:51)
6. Joe Castro – Dorshka (for Doris Duke) (4:39)
7. Joe Castro – Have You Met Miss Jones? (3:40)
8. Joe Castro – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (4:03)
9. Joe Castro – Zoot Blues (4:22)
10. Joe Castro – Black and Blue (What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue) (3:26)
11. Joe Castro – Jazzbo’s Jaunt (2:30)
12. Joe Castro – Pennies from Heaven (4:03)
13. Joe Castro – Blues in the Closet (2:52)
14. Joe Castro – Straight Life (3:52)
15. Joe Castro – It’s All Right with Me (3:20)
16. Joe Castro – Sometimes I’m Happy (3:47)
17. Joe Castro – Taking a Chance on Love (3:33)

1. Paul Bley – Blues improvisation in F (4:19)
2. Paul Bley – Ballad-blues improvisation in C (1:24)
3. Paul Bley – Ballad improvisation in F (4:24)
4. Paul Bley – Salt Peanuts (1:41)
5. Paul Bley – A Place in the Sun (Main Title) (3:29)
6. Paul Bley – Willow Weep for Me (5:36)
7. Paul Bley – Time After Time (3:36)
8. Paul Bley – After You’ve Gone (2:24)
9. Paul Bley – Willow Weep for Me (Alternate Take) (5:45)
10. Paul Bley – Time After Time (Alternate Take) (3:43)
11. Flo Handy;George Handy – Forgetful (Master Take) (3:13)
12. Flo Handy;George Handy – Will I Ever Learn? (3:56)
13. Flo Handy;George Handy – Leavin’ Town (Master Take) (4:16)
14. Flo Handy;George Handy – Country Boy (3:40)
15. Flo Handy;George Handy – When You Are Near (3:50)
16. Flo Handy;George Handy – The Trouble with Me Is You (4:05)
17. Flo Handy;George Handy – You Wear Love So Well! (3:19)
18. Flo Handy;George Handy – Picnic in the Wintertime (2:45)

1. Joe Castro – J.C. Blues (5:07)
2. Joe Castro – Without You (Tres Palabras) (4:39)
3. Joe Castro – Doodlin’ (5:09)
4. Joe Castro – Ev’rything I Love (4:24)
5. Joe Castro – You Stepped Out of a Dream (3:46)
6. Joe Castro – If You Could See Me Now (3:40)
7. Joe Castro – It’s You or No One (4:06)
8. Joe Castro – Angel Eyes (4:41)
9. Joe Castro – Caravan (4:06)
10. Joe Castro – Prelude to a Kiss (5:26)
11. Joe Castro – How High the Moon (Unissued) (3:48)
12. Joe Castro – J.C. Blues (Alternate 1) (4:10)
13. Joe Castro – J.C. Blues (Alternate 2) (4:46)
14. Joe Castro – Doodlin’ (Alternate 1) (5:12)
15. Joe Castro – Doodlin’ (Alternate 2) (5:08)
1. Joe Castro – Groove Funk Soul (In & Out) (5:32)

2. Joe Castro – Yesterdays (7:21)
3. Joe Castro – Day Dream (7:02)
4. Joe Castro – Could Happen to You (3:33)
5. Joe Castro – Play Me the Blues (9:17)
6. Joe Castro – That’s All (5:28)
7. Joe Castro – Yesterdays (Alternate) (7:58)
8. Joe Castro – Play Me the Blues (Alternate) (6:24)
9. Joe Castro – Lover (6:48)
10. Joe Castro – Day In – Day Out (5:08)

1. Joe Castro – Daisy Mae (Whatever) (4:35)
2. Joe Castro – The Sidewalks of New York (East Side, West Side) (8:14)
3. Joe Castro – Here’s That Rainy Day (4:52)
4. Joe Castro – My Ship (4:28)
5. Joe Castro – I’m Getting Sentimental Over You (2:29)
6. Joe Castro – One Life To Live (4:39)
7. Joe Castro – That Old Feeling (4:14)
8. Joe Castro – Cheek to Cheek (2:50)
9. Joe Castro – Fascinating Rhythm (4:29)
10. Joe Castro – Funky Blues (7:56)
11. Joe Castro – You Don’t Know What Love Is (4:41)

1. Joe Castro – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (1965) (2:38)
2. Joe Castro – Sweet Lorraine (2:59)
3. Joe Castro – Get Out of Town (5:02)
4. Joe Castro – Remind Me (6:21)
5. Joe Castro – Satin Doll (2:43)
6. Joe Castro – A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing (4:00)
7. Joe Castro – Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me) (2:52)
8. Joe Castro – Lush Life (7:04)
9. Joe Castro – Passion Flower (3:30)
10. Joe Castro – Remind Me (Alternate) (6:21)

Joe Castro - Passion Flower - For Doris Duke (2020, Box Set) | Discogs

Joe Castro – San Jose’s Mojo

In May of 1958, Joe Castro put together a new trio to begin what would be a long stint at Maynard Sloate’s Avant Garde in Los Angeles. Bassist Fred Dutton and drummer Tom Reynolds had come from San Jose as a part of composer Allyn Ferguson’s Chamber Jazz Sextet.

That group had originally come to Los Angeles to perform with poet Kenneth Patchen at the Caberet Concert Theatre, Los Angeles City College and the Los Angeles Jazz Concert Hall. Unfortunately, the Sextet was on its last legs as the members fell out with the leader even though they had more work in the wings, including an invitation to perform at the Brussels World Fair, an invitation that had been procured by Patchen’s benefactor, Doris Duke.

The Sextet was all but broken up by June. Dutton and Reynolds had found work with Castro and Ferguson’s interest in film and television scoring began in earnest. He went on to write music for a number of television shows, including Charlie’s Angels, and dozens of films.

Prior to his work with the Sextet, Dutton had been in the first version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing both bass and bassoon. He would later go on to play with Stan Getz and in Europe with Romano Mussolini and Hans Koller before settling in California to playin symphonies in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The trio received good reviews at the Avant Garde. Castro was able to network even further, becoming friendly with vocalist Ann Richards, Stan Kenton’s wife, who he would work with later at the Sands in Las Vegas.

It is likely that it was during this time span that Castro had the trio and a handful of guests come to his home studio at Falcon Lair in Beverly Hills for jam sessions that were recorded. The guests included other members of the Chamber Jazz Sextet, including saxophonists Modesto Briseño and Frank Leal. Castro’s old friend Ernie Chavez also joined the sessions tenor saxophone for a number of pieces.

The mid-tempo swing of Charlie Parker’s “Blue Bird” has a fine alto solo from the rarely heard Leal, along with turns from Chavez and Castro. Harry Edison and Joe Jones’s “H and J” is filled out in a sextet arrangement with Briseño adding twin tenor harmonic flair. A bouncy take on Sy Oliver and Sid Garris’s “Opus One” is a perfect vehicle for the saxes of Chavez, Leal and Briseño, as is Castro’s driving “Santa Cruz.” The vibrant “Original In G” is another Castro that allows for long solos, while the pianist’s bluesy “MoJo” provides a brief appearance by Chamber Jazz Sextet trumpeter Dent Hand.

On another session, Briseño’s laconic tenor floats nicely over the trio on a group improvisation and swings hard on a brisk take of Rodgers and Hart’s “Lady Is A Tramp.” The last four tracks add the vocals of Ann Richards to this quartet. Richards delivers on loose but intriguing takes of Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots’s “You Got To My Head,” Andy Razaf and Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston’s “Pennies from Heaven” and Henry Nemo’s “Don’t Take Your Love from Me.”

1. Blue Bird (8:21)
2. H and J (4:26)
3. Opus One (4:24)
4. Santa Cruz (3:07)
5. Original in G (10:20)
6. MoJo (5:22)
7. Blues in G (4:31)
8. Lady Is a Tramp (8:20)
9. You Go to My Head (5:49)
10. Honeysuckle Rose (3:32)
11. Pennies from Heaven (4:59)
12. Don’t Take Your Love from Me (0:56)

Frank Leal – alto saxophone (1-6)
Ernie Chavez – tenor saxophone (1-5)
Modesto Briseño – tenor saxophone
Joe Castro – piano
Fred Dutton – bass
Tom Reynolds – drums
Dent Hand – trumpet (6)
Ann Richards – vocals (9-12)

San Jose's Mojo | Joe Castro

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