Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos to lead Pierce Street Jazz

Gilbert Castellanos will lead Pierce Street Jazz on August 22.
Gilbert Castellanos will lead Pierce Street Jazz on August 22.

Aug. 20, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( The son of a cumbia band leader and singer in Mexico, Gilbert Castellanos grew up immersed in classical and big band jazz.

He was encouraged to pursue a musical career and the influence took hold early on. While in elementary school in California, the future trumpet player listened to jazz legend Freddie Hubbard on his Walkman portable music player. Later on Castellanos graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and from California Institute of the Arts, embarking on a successful career in 1991 as a member of the award-winning Black/Note band. Since that time, Castellanos’ performance and recording credits have grown to include productions of his own albums as well as work with a long list of famous acts including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, and many others. When not performing and recording, the trumpet virtuoso advocates for the music he loves by conducting high school workshops and lecturing at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.

On Aug. 22, at 7 p.m., Castellanos will bring his talents to the local stage for the next Pierce Street Jazz concert at La Sierra University’s Alumni Center. The Alumni Center is located at 11500 Pierce St., Riverside approximately one block from the main campus in front of the La Sierra Natural Foods market. Admission is free.

Castellanos will lead a band of jazz musicians who have frequently backed Pierce Street Jazz headline acts and who themselves have extensive performance and recording credits. Band members are Theo Saunders on piano, Ramon Banda on drums, and Henry “the Skipper” Franklin on bass.

Pianist Saunders has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and concert halls with distinguished artists including Hubbard, Carla Bley, David “Fathead” Newman, Barbara Morrison, Bobby Rodriguez, Gladys Knight, the Four Tops and many others.

He has directed music for opera productions and international musical theatre. As a composer, Saunders has numerous compositions to his credit as well as original scores for theatre, radio and multimedia production.

Drummer Banda performed 24 years with the Grammy award-winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band. He is a current band member with famed jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco. Banda grew up in Norwalk, Calif., part of a large musical family. He started out on the guitar but switched to drums in 1967. Banda and his electric bass-playing brother, Tony Banda, performed weekend gigs during their school years with several bands including with Poncho Sanchez. In 1996 he and Tony formed their own ensemble, The Banda Bros. Group, with Tony on upright bass. The duo has performed on numerous worldwide tours and with many famous acts. Over the past two decades, Ramon has performed on more than 22 recordings and recorded and played with such music greats as Dizzie Gillespie, Tito Puente, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Arturo Sandoval, Diana Reeves and others.

Bassist Franklin has performed on more than 150 albums and compact discs including gold releases, many of which he produced. Last March he released his 24th album, “Soul of the World,” recorded with his band on his SP Records label. Franklin has played his upright bass with numerous jazz and pop greats including Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Count Basie, Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson, and was part of the legendary Hugh Masekela’s band during the late 1960s. When not on tour in various parts of the United States and the world, Franklin performs at The Historic Mission Inn in Riverside, Calif. He also organizes concerts for La Sierra’s Pierce Street Jazz series.


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  August 20, 2012