Rai Castells – “Welcome” – Another Planet Records

Rai Castells – “Welcome” – Another Planet Records

Rai Castells is a Barcelona born / Berklee bred guitarist who has studied with some of the best the East coast jazz scene has to offer and it shows a lot in his playing ; we’re talking about musicians like George Garzone, Joe Lovano, Hal Crook, Mick Goodrick, and Joanne Bracken. He’s making a name for himself in Spain’s jazz scene where he’s from, but it’s clear he will go world class soon. We received his CD “Welcome” that was inspired by his time at the Boston jazz school, and it’s clear that he’s learned his lessons well.

“Around The Planet” kicks off with a rather diabolical unison line played by the bass and and guitar with drums, and then an equally scary “Mike Stern-ish” hip melody is played over the same line by Rai with saxophonist Miguel ‘Pintxo’ Villar joining on the unison. The solos hit hard in a a modern straight ahead way. After spirited soloing, the turns winds up with a maniacal musical “round” with the various lines in the tune all weaving around each other in a post bop harmony swirl.

“Looped Suite” is a very cool murky modal mood, with Max Villavecchia’s piano playing the looped 6/8 dark ostinato. The haunting melody in the guitar and saxophone is followed by a long written unison solo line, before both Rai and Max, who branch out on their own in a conversation with each other. The suite winds down softly as everyone drops out until it ends as it started with just piano.

Jordi Gaspar’s acoustic bass plays a stark and in your face solo intro, and then all of the sudden the driving 5/4 theme of “Cinc” comes unexpectantly out of nowhere. Castells’s “just a little grit” guitar tone and angular lines propel things until Villavecchia’s piano solo shifts gears to a more introspective mode, and then it’s on to a very nice drum solo over the groove by Jordi Gardeñas. Overall, the tune continues to show Rai’s propensity for being able to write interesting melodies over cool grooves.Things wind up as they started, with the band little by little dropping down and out to leave Gaspar’s bass on it’s own to eventually wind things down to a single note.

“Into Something” is a lean post-bop minor modal tune with a very “intelligentsia” sophisticated head. Villar plays a very Coltrane-esque solo, sort of “A Love Supreme-ish” but with his own harmonic voice. Rai’s compelling solo is hip and driving, and Max’s solo also brings “A Love Supreme” to mind, even quoting from it once.

“Missing” begins with a beautiful introspective unaccompanied guitar intro, building to a ballad with a very pretty and memorable melody. This was probably one of my favorite’s on the record, and shows a lot of sophistication in Castells’ composition skills. Gaspar plays a very lyrical bass solo, with Villar’s sax then taking it over to the next level up. Villavecchia’s piano solo is economical and brooding, and then the saxophone melody enters with Rai playing some choice fills around it to take it out.

“Varanasi” is an uptempo sort of Latin affair with a wistful melody played in harmony between the guitar and saxophone. It features Rai’s most lyrical solo on the record, which evokes the sort of dark beauty that Pat Metheny always offers on this kind of tune. Not to be outdone, Villar turns in one of his best solos on the record as well, as with Villavecchia’s piano solo. It’s a great tune, and those kind of tunes always seem to propel a soloist.

“Lost” is a cool bright swing tune the changes gears a number of times, and offers very cool solos as well. “Tetric” is a pulsating driving affair that shifts meters often, and has a sort of Spanish flavor. It features a churning saxophone solo from Villar.

The record goes out on a positive groove with “Everything is Possible”, it’s singable simple melody would make it an obvious choice for a radio single from the record. Villavecchia supports the melody with clouds of arpeggios underneath it, and then goes to a wistful section that starts with just his piano, and then leading back to the melody momentarily, followed by very nice solos from both Rai and Miguel, and then grooves it’s way out the door with the melody.

Rai Castells is a guitarist that fans of Pat Metheny, Jonathan Kreisberg and the like will for sure enjoy. He plays well and writes well, and you don’t find both in the same package a lot. If he sticks with it and keeps performing, writing and recording, he should be able to go anywhere he wants with hist music.


Rai Castells_guitar

Miguel ‘Pintxo’ Villar_sax

Max Villavecchia_piano

Jordi Gaspar_bass

Jordi Gardeñas_drums

Record Label: Another Planet Records

Release date: November 23th, 2018