Review: Robert Castelli Boom Quartet, by Ian Fleckney

Robert Castelli Boom Quartet WOW Kent

These days jazz musicians emerge from just about every country under the sun, and the latest Anchorians jazz gig was no exception. Robert Castelli, on drums, hails from New York and Vienna, Heath from Australia, Mantovani from Italy and the multi talented Nic Meier is originally from Switzerland, but now a resident of the UK. All combined to play in the Boom Quartet and provided the crowd with witty melodies, mixed with tough swing and exciting grooves.

The cohesion of the band was exceptional and all the musicians were excellent soloists in their own right. Overseeing everything was the charismatic rhythm machine of Castelli, a forceful drummer, but at no time impeding the improvisations of other members of the band.

Nicolas Meier proved his reputation as an exceptional guitarist is deserved as he played a mix of Methenyesque jazz and world music rhythms on either his Godin nylon string acoustic or one of his two jazz guitars. Meier says, “it all depends on which tune the band is playing, I just reach out for the appropriate instrument and off I go”.

Meier chose to play his own composition “Tales” for his featured piece, a tune from his recent collaboration with fellow guitarist Pete Oxley, that was full of free floating elegance and its own distinctive characteristics. A masterful performance. Funky time followed with a tune called “Lumps for Humpty Dumpty” where the drumming of Castelli, underpinned by a strong bass line from Mantovani, propelled Greg Heath into the spotlight where his consummate improvisation talent on tenor sax led into a bravura performance.

Robert Castelli Boom Quartet 2 WOW Kent

A more poignant moment came as Robert Castelli introduced a tune called “For The Fallen” a ballad for the “people not with us anymore”. A beautifully crafted piece, where the guitar and tenor sax intertwined their ideas before moving into a simple tune, just perfect in reflecting the mood. It was also the right moment for those who knew our friend, Don Emanuel, who sadly passed away earlier this year, to reflect on the support he always gave to the club and to the promoters.

“Gokalina Song” was a tune that Castelli composed for his daughter and which he said was based on only three chords. A basic format it may be, but one that was really charming, with a whiff of nostalgia. The sax line by Greg Heath suited the reggae rhythm perfectly and engaged the audience with its gentle swing.

Next up, “Caravan” brought things back into the mainstream and gave Castelli another chance to show his drumming mastery, while “African Dance” was redolent of Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, full of tight rhythms and extended excitement.

As an encore, the band launched into Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”. This may be true, but it would be hard to fault an evening where you heard such a varied set of tunes that represented jazz standards, Brazilian and Latin beats, and New York Funk.

The following day, the band is playing at the prestigious Marlborough Jazz Festival. On this evidence, they would have certainly  received a great reception there.


Image credit: Ian Fleckney