JoeCastro web

Album: Passion Flower
Label: Sunnyside
Vertrieb: Good To Go
VÖ: 20. November 2020

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.


Joe Castro’s Sessions – Mojo – San Jose Reunion Bands & Jam is a bonus recording that is available digitally. The release features a number of loose but entertaining jam sessions held at Falcon Lair with former members of the San Jose based Allyn Ferguson’s Chamber Jazz Sextet, which had broken up after touring with poet Kenneth Patchen. Vocalist Ann Richards can be heard to colorful effect on four tracks. 


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.”


Lastly, Kitty White’s Happiness is a Thing Called Joe is an interesting digital only addition to the set. The program includes the film and music studio veteran’s rarely heard self-titled release from 1966 along with other sessions she did for Duke and Castro’s Clover Records. The recordings feature notable musicians like arranger Art Simmons, trumpeter Sonny Grey, flute and tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis, bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Kenny Clarke.


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