I know Chicago has a very deep jazz scene, but I'm often reminded how strong it is by a record like Esse (OA2), the second from drummer and composer Gustavo Cortiñas. Though the Mexico native moved to the area a decade ago to further his education, attending Loyola and Northwestern, I'd never heard of him until a couple of months ago (same goes for some of the players who contribute to the new album). Now I've certainly been put on notice, especially via the profundity of the band's strong horn section, featuring trombonist Adam Thornburg, saxophonists Artie Black and Roy McGrath, and trumpeter Justin Copeland. Cortiñas says his compositions here were inspired by the writings of Western philosophers - Hegel, Aristotle, and Descartes among them - with certain precepts illustrated by structural conceits, which are explained in occasionally convoluted liner notes. The clarity of the melodies and lush arrangements, however, render those underpinnings superfluous. Tunes are marked by patient attacks and painterly details, all articulated by his warm and generous band - bassist Kit Liles, guitarist Hans Luchs, and pianist Joaqu'n Garciá help sculpt sturdy, inviting grooves that afford the front line loads of space and atmosphere. The results are thoroughly mainstream, but the vitality of the playing and the writing ought to grab anyone's attention.