KCUR 89.3 (Bill Brownlee)

As a bass player, the Kansas City jazz musician Robert Castillo is in high demand as a sideman around town. He knows how to play by all the jazz rules. But when it comes to leading his own band, Castillo has other ideas…
With “Among Friends” Castillo provides the Universe with a far out close up of the leading edge of Kansas City’s jazz scene.


The Sextet is among a new wave of ensembles that’s redefining the sound of Kansas City jazz. Bassist Robert Castillo, the leader of the Sextet, suggests that his group creates “music to move to and be moved by.” The description reflects the Sextet’s appeal to fans of jam bands like Phish, as well as to enthusiasts of Kansas City’s jazz tradition. Songs including “#Notmypresident” on “Blob Castle,” the Sextet’s buoyant 2017 album, split the difference between righteous jams and venerable swing.


The Sextet is confirmation that Kansas City is still the place to be for Jazz. Their music, the golden draped backdrop, and the vintage microphones made me want to change into a flapper dress & start ordering champagne by the bottle.
On their Soundcloud page, they have a small slogan written, “music to move to and be moved by” and I can’t say anything more accurate than that. The Sextet takes a nostalgic genre and brings it to life. With only two years until we enter a new decade of “roaring twenties” I know what I will be listening to in preparation. And when the ball drops on Jan 1st, 2020, here’s hoping I will be at The Black Dolphin seeing the Sextet live.


Their penchant for soulful grooves and elements of funk will appeal to fans of like-minded Kansas City jazz groups like the Project H and Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle.
The band celebrates the release of their second album, “Blob Castle,” on Saturday [October 27, 2017]. Filled with youthful exuberance, a track like “Square Peg in a Round Hole” exemplifies the Sextet’s exciting balance between honoring jazz convention and succumbing to wild abandon.


“Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?”  The inspired treatment the Kansas City jazz band the Sextet and guest vocalist Calvin Arsenia apply to “Colors of the Wind” reflects their eagerness to use a full musical palette on the energetic new album Blob Castle.

Robert Castillo, the bassist and leader of the Sextet, told Plastic Sax that “I get chills with every listen” to the imaginative treatment of the Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz composition.  The remainder of Blob Castle is certain to inspire similarly enthusiastic responses from adventurous listeners.

Acting as a splendid introduction to lesser known area talents including the trumpeter Teddy Krulewich, trombonist Trevor Turla and the saxophonist Max Levy, the kaleidoscopic album includes conventional post-bop, groove-oriented soul-jazz and splashes of free improvisation.  Unconventional song titles like “#notmypresident” and “Gluten Free Water” are indicative of the Sextet’s inspired approach.


To release a debut as compelling, organic and self-assured as “In A Natural State” is cause for celebration. When the group disbands only days after the record release show, all that’s left to do is play the whole album again and wonder at what could have been. This debut/swan song deftly manages the tricky balance between being a laid back groove record and a vehicle for emotive improvisation. Bassist and leader, Robert Castillo and drummer Dave Kelsay keep an ever percolating groove going with plenty of air to allow fiery solos from trumpeter Jared Henkin, saxophonist Morgan Quinn and trombonist James Powers. Paul Paresa switches effortlessly between acoustic piano and keyboards. Whether they are putting their own stamp on “Afro Blue” or riffing on expansive originals such as closing number “Moving On,” this is the sound of young players feeling their oats. In this moment, there is greatness. Portland never got the chance to know it.