ABOUT THE BAND
“Combining a tight jazz fusion sound with a rock beat, a healthy shot of bluesiness, and a little New Orleans-flavored funk, Amadee Castenell has assembled an album of rock-solid performances. His tenor sax is gutsy without being overblown . . . .a refreshing dose of music, combining just the right elements of a few different genres of music.”
---National Public Radio
Everyone who has grown up in New Orleans has developed a keen taste for great gumbo (that combination of just the right elements of different ingredients, but not everyone masters the cooking of it.) Amadee Castenell has indeed mastered the musical gumbo of the city, America’s richest source of musical roots.
An integral member of the Allen Toussaint Orchestra for many years, Castenell first met Toussaint as a high school student, when he and other members of the school band were sent to Toussaint’s legendary Sea-Saint Recording Studio to play on a session with Professor Longhair. “I had never been in a studio before,” says Castenell. “Allen came through the studio---he was bigger than life. I was afraid to speak with him. He’s such a perfectionist; he’ll put you under pressure. . . . The studio experiences I had with Allen polished my playing---Allen gave me the Ph.D.”
Castenell immediately became a huge success with his buttery, funky rhythm and blues group, Chocolate Milk, recording eight albums for RCA Victor in the ‘70s.
But his musical influences are broad, ranging from Ray Charles and James brown to Horace Silver and Lee morgan to Ellington and Basie. He identifies his greatest inspiration as having come from Cannonball Adderley, Grover Washington, and the Crusaders’ Wilton Felder. “They were more soulful,” he says. “They didn’t just play the notes right, but they felt what they were playing.”
He takes a similar approach to his own playing. “You’re not thinking about some patterns. You play what you’re thinking and feeling, play as if you were singing---hold it, bend it, scream with it as if you’re a vocalist. This is my method of communicating with an audience. A lot of musicians will lose the audience because they take it outside and leave it too long. “Certain gigs become mental rather than emotional.
Among those who have called upon Castenell to season their musical stew are Albert King, Dave Bartholomew, Elvis Costello, Robby Robertson, Idris Mohammed, Eric Gayle, Dr. John, Etta James, Paul Simon, Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, James COtton, Charles Brown, Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Billy Joel, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Nancy Wilson, Ruth Brown, Earl King, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey, Johnny Adams, Dolly Parton, The Dirty Dozen, The Neville Brothers and on and on and on. His distinctively expressive style makes him the tenor saxophonist of choice among dozens of recording artists.
Castenell says. “Sometimes I’ll play something and I'll get chills or start crying, it moves me so much.” It’s that soulful style that has still made him such an in-demand session player, having recorded with dozens of world-class jazz, blues, R&B, soul, and Rock musicians, and having toured with many dozens more.