Translated from Spanish:
Mexican jazz has a side that associates with the territory, Mexico, another that relates to the origin of the musician, the Mexican jazz. Between the two lines of construction of a possible concept the relationships are multiple, there are musicians born in other countries who work and develop their projects in Mexico, there are Mexican musicians who for different circumstances live and create their music in other countries. All this seems relatively clear from a common sense, from other points of view the thing is simpler, there are musicians and music, and that's it, and from some hard position, only Mexican musicians in Mexico do Mexican jazz, or in a more Grave, there is no Mexican jazz, only gringo. All these possibilities are valid, they enrich the plurality of a dialogue that is sometimes rich and in others not so much. All this comes to talk about the new album by Gustavo Cortiñas, a Mexican musician who lives, works and develops his jazz project in Chicago, one of the birthplaces of original, genetic jazz in the country of bars and stars. Writing about this event allows for these notes and much more.
The story of a musician born in Mexico and who creates in another country immediately brings diverse reflections on what the context and root mean for the development of a music project. It could be the case of a musician who carries a root that articulates a cultural genealogy of many generations in the Mexican past that manifest in the voice of a creator who moves in a context very different from his parents. What would that kind of music be like? How far would the root manifest itself? Would there be any kind of marriage with the new context? These are some of the questions to listen to and inquire into a certain possible scenario. On the other hand could be the case of a musician whose roots are more attached to contemporary cultural forms. Something like new roots, in contrast to those of the previous case, old roots. Well, new roots also have a history. Young contemporaries feed on new roots that have their genealogies in strange and distant territories and cultures. This theme is fascinating, Gustavo Cortiñas has a sound that does not connote the Huasteca or the son of the West, has no direct root with black slavery and the matrix of American jazz in English. How to listen to your music? What allows our diverse and multiple cultural and musical ecology in the emergence of projects like yours?
Gustavo Cortiñas is a young Mexican musician based in the city of Chicago, graduated with honors at Loyola University New Orleans and at Northwestern University, with a dual background in Philosophy and Jazz. His instrument is the drums, the figures of time and rhythm, keys in the sound of jazz, are his daily challenge. In his short career, which does not go beyond five years after graduating, he has played in several countries, such as the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Colombia, accompanying various ensembles and with his own project, already has two albums of original projects Personal, Snapshot (2013) and ESSE (2016). His commitment and discipline conforms to the direction and guidance of his teachers, he assumes his primary stage of formation with the concentrated attention of a studious and punctual disciple. His musical training has allowed him to create a project that associates the traditions of traditional jazz and Mexican and Latin American music. The special point in this movement is his formation in philosophy, which manages a tension between the language of words and Western rationality and the language of sound and its creative possibilities beyond concepts. Hence his second project, ESSE, built with different interweaves of the interiority of the musician possessed by visions that put to dialogue literary phrases with musical phrases.
Musical horizons do not appear by spontaneous generation, there is always a story. In the case of Gustavo this story has its origin in the family home, a stimulating environment may be enough to motivate the impulse of a vocation. His parents provided an environment of multiple links and articulations with art, theater, plastic, music, as an environment that allows and promotes, conducts and manages. From that rich atmosphere for children's sensibility and imagination was music the most appreciated light, and almost immediately the percussion. How does this happen? It would seem that fate exists. Gustavo took music lessons from a very young age, at ten years the line of life acquired form and direction, would be a musician, would play the drums. His teachers in Mexico were Rodrigo Jiménez and Hernán Hecht, with whom he studied privately. Then came Johnny Vidacovich and Wayne Maureau in New Orleans. Victor Goines and Willie Jones at Northwestern University. Know, understand, restart. Respect and admire, feel and think. Years of sedimentation, exploration and desire, searches and encounters. From all that emerges a young man with project, almost mature, with conviction, training, vision, courage, aspiration. His education is complemented worked with musicians on ensembles projects, Kitt Lyles Real Talk, and the Roy McGrath Quartet. Listening to and enjoying pop and rock projects such as Sasha Bayan (orchestral pop), Adreian Davis (electronic experimental rock), Subhi (Indy pop jazz), and Cristian Larumbe (power trio of rock). Behind a musical project there is always a story.
The ESSE disc is constructed with nine original trakcs composed by Gustavo, thought to be interpreted by his septet Snapschot. The title of the album is a metaphor of the personal program of life and work of the composer, arranger and performer, Gustavo Cortiñas, the question for the existence lived from the very course of the doubt and the certainty of being. From this commitment the album has a conceptual profile, the intimate exteriorized conversation of the creator in the possible framework between his two passions, music and philosophy. Gustavo states, as you will hear in the synthetic presentation of the disc, that certain authors of the western philosophy have impacted in particular form, Plato, Aristotle, Wittgenstein and Nietzche, a fan that takes back the primary sediment of Western thought and the proposals of rebirth Of the original sprout between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. In music something similar happens, jazz has its own history of phases, jumps, slow pace. From the antecedents until the last third of the twentieth century the music of the infinite lives an evolution that explodes from the sixties leading the movement to a diversity and extension current improbable forty years ago. The ESSE project can be located between these nuances and genealogies, testing a continuity line within certain ruptures.
ESSE's proposal is born of the will to unite and explore unions. In his first disc there was a piece "Skepticism", the fourth track, the longest, that already wanted to express a philosophical idea through the music. A powerful seed that would germinate in the project of the second disc. The languages of music and philosophy are not symmetrical, they coincide perhaps in intentions and moments of enlightenment. That could be the general guide of the ESSE project to match points of expansion of perception and awareness. In the musical execution happens, in the philosophical reflection also, something communicates to both experiences in the instant that happen. That can be recorded, you can try the communication of the experience with the audience, the audience, the listener. All that is possible, and worth trying to look for it. Each piece is an essay of that horizon of possibility, so with a bundle of concepts tied to certain texts and authors, music unites the improbable and settles on the concrete. The journey of the recording may coincide with the experience of the audition. This trip would be even better at a live concert.
The rolls are a sample of constructive options. There are simple compositions like Allegory of the Cave and Man of Flesh and Bone, which come from moments when melodies / reflections come and take shape as a complete piece. Other dancers like Dalectics of Freedom, are more complicated and complex, from the beginning there is a concept that looks for some musical form, that requires more work, hypotheses, alternatives, decisions. It was a question of exploring the idea of individual liberties that only find their meaning in the collective, a Hegelian concept illustrated by the different rhythms / metrics that only when related have musical meaning, a melody that moves within different times, following a harmony Cyclical model illustrating the dialectical method. Another example of the articulation essay between music and philosophical concept is On Certainty. Gustavo seeks to illustrate the idea of fundamentalism of certainty through a motif that functions as the melodic basis and thus builds the whole development of the piece. The whole album is built in a way that ties in with tradition, with touches of originality in rhythmic and harmonic games that enrich melodies that from simple to complex and come back. Smooth sound that finds Latin voices as in Arete, or echoes of cool jazz as in The Allegory of the Cave. The rhythmic time in Global Skepticism is a delight. The swing of Ubermensch connects us to the music of big bands that with the traditional sound of Chicago jazz. In this project the dialogues of the metals are precise, punctual, the guitar and the piano are not protagonists, they are participants, the bass is great, omnipresent and discreet, the battery neat, without any excess.
The basic kitchen of the project as in other cases is touching the prospected. Here are variants from project to project, from assembly to assembly, from leader to leader. At one end is staging point by point according to the pre-produced, it is a common option, it is hard, requires great flexibility, professionalism and adaptability, by the musicians. At the other extreme are projects that are only a draft that is intervened again and again by all during the rehearsals and appropriation of the proposal. Variants are presented on this general scheme. Gustavo comes from a disciplined school that demands of the author and producer a complete clarity before and during the presentation of the proposal to the musicians. The variant here is that the proposal itself calls for participation of the musicians in the interpretation and execution. Perhaps this model of work is the most common in contemporary jazz. In this case everything develops in form during fourteen hours of study. This is a fascinating quality of jazz, the demand and precision at the same time as spontaneous creative collaboration.
Something about the musicians. All are known to Gustavo from Northwestern University, he has participated with them in various projects. The chemistry of the group is something that for some is not indispensable, for Gustavo if it is. Justin Copeland, trumpeter with a trained and curious attention, a texture explorer with ability to leave an impression. Artie Black, tenor saxophonist soft and subtle, with a competition in the domain of certain angular melodies that develops aware of what is happening around him, always inclined to complete what is happening in the set. Roy McGrath, a tenor saxophonist with whom he has been playing for nine years, a musician with attitude and energy, with an impulse that pushes the music forward, capable of impacting with his personality the group's psychic situation. Adam Thornburg, trombone teacher, respectful of tradition, passionate interpreter, able to articulate the whole environment with his swing, he moves on the path of the great. Joaqu'n Garc'a, a delicate pianist, knows when to increase his energy to boost expression and tension to music, his mastery of rhythm and his playful character make him an indispensable character in the rhythm section, his solos are the ideal harmonic contrast in any piece. Hans Luchs, a patient and precise guitarist, has a great ear, a great gift for melodic development and the exploration of colorful harmonies, ready to think outside the scheme and bring what is needed to each situation. Kitt Lyles, the low anchor, relay and impulse, has a very attentive and collaborative way of doing things, able to devote the right time and energy to the smallest details, the necessary and indispensable lighthouse for the order and organization of the Collective sound. And of course Gustavo Cortiñas to the battery, discreet, attentive, completely involved. An assembly of great quality, formed, integrated, whole,
The final product of all this individual and collective effort is a finished recording, that is to say, the quality is first, all the components of the project have been carefully cared for and developed with care and dedication, with affection and camaraderie. The cover is a mirror, just like the general concept of the disc, in the images of music and philosophy contemplating and uniting. Gustavo Cortiñas in front of Gustavo Cortiñas, the musician and the philosopher. Is this dialogue, this creative tension possible? The disc proves that it is possible. The disc object also takes extreme care in the design and composition of the art. The overall impression is of something of great quality, all the details were attended with great professionalism, including the promotion and management of the social life of the finished product. This review is part of that process, a collaboration more in the collective work of a round work that now only expects you to listen to it, enjoy it, make it part of you.