To describe the music on Edo Castro’s latest release, Phoenix, is one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced as a jazz CD reviewer. That’s not to make a judgment on the quality of the music. It’s not to say it’s the best or the worst jazz I’ve heard (I try to allow the reader/listener to make those kinds of judgments). It is simply to say that this music defies description perhaps more than any other CD I have reviewed. This being a magazine, however (where only written descriptions will do). I will try my best.
Edo Castro is undoubtedly a unique musician. His music has a style that’s unquestionably his own. He is a bassist unlike any I’ve heard. His unique sound comes mainly from two areas. First, is the variety of sounds he creates. He does this largely through the use of electronics & loops. He plays a variety of electric basses and blends synth sounds and programming to create a wide variety of sonic textures.
The second aspect of Castro’s signature sound is of course his musicality. His use of the bass as a melodic instrument and as a leading instrument, is unique and intriguing. He certainly has the ability as a composer to adequately and appropriately spotlight his skills on the bass, and he has the chops as an instrumentalist to back up this spotlight on an instrument that isn’t accustomed to this role.
Finally, he has the foresight as an arranger to create the perfect background cushion for his melodic statements. Much of the music on Phoenix is original. There are distinct stylistic and/or textural influences on some of the tracks. Blue Asia, for instance, is set in a Latin-ish 6/8 style with a bass-line reminiscent of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints. The title track is a feature for George Brooks on soprano sax. Other tunes, like Bone Dreams and Chance of Rain, are purely sound collages. Rise adds vocals to the mix. Other members of the band contribute original material as well. Guitarist Ralph Towner is featured on his composition Beneath an Evening Sky. Blue features his exotic vertical double flutes on his The Gift of Blue, parts one and two. A particularly unexpected addition is that of Amazing Grace, which is put in a funky setting and features vocals.
So there it is; I’ve at least managed to put into words what the general feel and vibe of Phoenix is. At least I hope I have. I’ve told you about a sound. A sound created by a singular musician (and his chosen band mates). I’ve told you the sound exists. I can do no more. I can no better describe the sound than describe the feeling of sinking into your bed at the end of a hard day. You have to experience it yourself. If you’re looking for something entirely different, go experience Phoenix.