Solo act: On Velvet Tone Sessions Vol. 1, the Jake Castillo Trio from San Antonio lets itself go to improvisation | Recording reviews | San Antonio

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  • Courtesy photo / Jake Castillo Trio
  • The Jake Castillo Trio’s new album gives the band members a chance to shine with long improvisations.

With his new self-released LP, Velvet Tone Sessions Vol. 1, long-time blues-rock band from San Antonio, the Jake Castillo Trio aimed to simply show up in the studio and play a live set with an outing vibe. Listeners who accept the invitation are likely to walk away with at least one point of agreement: these cats can play.

And “cats” is the right word, as guitarist-vocalist Castillo and company manage to set the mood. Instead of just being a song-driven set, Your Velvet allows players to stretch, tracking solos to their comfortable end point.

Castillo’s guitar playing benefits from the wide-open model, although the approach is clearly not suitable for all types of listeners. Many times, after the solo, there is a moment when the band comes to a crossroads: sonic and tonal, they can go straight back into the song. Instead, they switch gears into another solo.

Of course, the Jake Castillo Trio is a “blues” group in the same sense as The dark side of the moon is a blues album. The bones are there, but it’s not Muddy Waters or even Cream. In fact, the sound core of the band — makes it a quartet, but who’s counting? — is similar to the instrumental guitar and saxophone break in the aforementioned Floyd’s “Money.”

Saxophonist Johnny Castillo, Jake’s nephew, is a key ingredient in the band, particularly brilliant on “Sunny,” a Bobby Hebb cover. Appropriately for a live studio, covers abound, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made Of Sand” and “Voodoo Child,” plus a Hendrix-style version of Bob Dylan on “All Along The Watchtower.” .

At Velvet tone sessions, the group divides it in two, mixing covers and originals. The original instrumental “Solum Invictus” contains the most striking guitar playing, emphasizing an Eddie Van Halen-esque composition that is surprisingly less focused on solos. The lack of a super-extended lead also explains why it comes in at 4:29, the shortest song on the album. And don’t sleep on “The Truth,” a strong original that features one of Jake Castillo’s most powerful vocal performances.

If you think all of that makes the Jake Castillo Trio a jam band, well, you’re not mistaken. The funky blues-based approach is the foundation of the genre, and Jake Castillo’s vocals are reminiscent of Dave Katz of Ohio regional jam stalwarts Ekoostik Hookah.

The main musical difference is that these San Antonians focus on improvisation in a traditional chord-based format, as opposed to the fickle, psychedelic jams that are so common on the circuit.

Jam bands often get criticized for a one-note approach, and that criticism could also apply to the Jake Castillo Trio, given their unwavering commitment to a signature sound. With 12 songs spread over 80 minutes, some listeners might find Velvet tone sessions plenty to take – something that wouldn’t be a problem in a smoky club while drinking with friends.

But if heartbreaking guitar solos and tight bluesy funk are your thing, you’re unlikely to regret the hit with Jake Castillo and his band of merry men.

Velvet Tone Sessions Vol. 1 is available on Bandcamp.

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