They don’t call it mood music for nothing. Whether my mood is upbeat or downbeat, serious or playful, extroverted or introverted, there are musical choices aplenty to complement, enhance or counteract it. Edo Castro — in addition to playing one of the coolest-looking instruments ever built, a fretless eight-string bass — on his sophomore solo release, Phoenix, delivers what I can only describe as mood music. It has flavorings of instrumental jazz, world music, and New Age but, perhaps surprisingly for someone whose primary instrument is generally thought of as a rhythm anchor, the emphasis is on sonic textures rather than beats or structures.
Early tracks Beneath An Evening Sky, Bone Dreams, and Song Of The Electric Whales have a contemplative, unrushed, elegant feel, becoming almost hypnotic in places. The synth textures, percussion and Debopriyo Sarkar’s tabla on Bone Dreams are especially evocative.
Blue Asia has greater structure, lending it more of straight jazz feel, but it could hardly be called mainstream when it’s built around a duet between two bass players, Castro and guest Mark Egan. This tasty cut also features intricate percussion work from Paul Van Wageningen and Ian Dogole, as well as production crisp enough to remind of Steely Dan.
Chance Of Rain and The Gift Of Blue (Parts 1 & 2) carry forward the earlier contemplative mood and pace, though Chance has a particularly steady-thrumming bass line that adds firmness and tension. In between, the title track returns to straight jazz, with a stuttering rhythm section underpinning some terrific sax work from George Brooks, complemented nicely by Lorn Leber’s electric guitar and Tommy Kesecker’s vibes.
Castro is a San Francisco Bay Area musician who has played with numerous local luminaries, including Jill Knight. Phoenix is his second solo outing and a great pickup if you’re either in a mellow mood or looking to instill one. While this is music you could work or play to, it’s most suited to simple contemplation, and isn’t that something we could all use a little more of in our lives?