Castro was born in Miami, Arizona on August 15, 1927 to John L. Castro and Lucy Sanchez. Castro went to school in Pittsburg, California in the San Francisco Bay area, north of Oakland, where he began playing professionally at the age of 15. His enrollment at San Jose State University was interrupted twice—first by a stint in the army from 1946 to 1947 and then when he formed his first jazz trio working on both the West Coast and in Hawaii. In 1956 Castro moved to New York City, where his trio successfully appeared in the city’s top jazz clubs—Basin Street, The Embers, The Hickory House and Birdland. He was critically lauded by the likes of Leonard Feather who described his style as “assertively swinging,” and Dave Brubeck, who had known Castro since the early 1950s, as “an extremely talented individual, a fine musician, an excellent pianist and a tasteful performer.” In 1958, he moved to Los Angeles to be associated almost exclusively with Teddy Edwards, Billy Higgins and Leroy Vinnegar. “The group has been very important to me,” Castro says. “I had been working so long with piano trios, I had to learn how to play less and say more. Actually I have more freedom in this group without having to carry the load.” Castro recorded and performed extensively with The Teddy Edwards Quartet while also making two of his own recordings as a leader for Atlantic Records.
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