By now, it shouldn't surprise anyone that jazz musicians often live itinerant lives. Everyone is from somewhere, but usually it's not here, wherever that is. Early jazz musiciansalmost exclusively Americanmigrated from all over the country to the formative hot spots in Chicago and then, a little latter, New York. Today's musicians make those same migratory journeys for school or a gig or a scene, but their points of origin are as likely to be from foreign countries as domestic. Starting in Mexico and ending up in the Windy City via New Orleans seems as reasonable as anything else, and it does honor a time-honored jazz tradition: picking up new things in different places along the way and blending them together into something personal and unique.
is making his debut as a leader with Snapshot, a collection of original compositions that run the gamut from straight-ahead cookers to mid- tempo blues and on through to ballads. The record is compositionally diverse and throws a bit of Latin tinge into the mix in subtle ways.
An example would be "La Balada Del Leon." The tune opens with a short, powerfully blue Victor Goines
tenor statement followed by Kitt Lyles' bass solo. But it's the guitar comping of Michael Allemana, and Cortiñas' down-tempo cymbal work that adds a bit of subtle Bossa Nova undertone to the track. It won't hit you over the head, but it's there in the chords, the short chopped strumming, and the slow tapped-out beat. It's really nicely structured to blend its elements.
Cortiñas does a nice job showcasing his fellow musicians in a collegial ensemble with plenty of room for everyone to work out. It's the drummers' date because it says so on the cover, but you'd never know it from listening to the music. That's the mark of a good, self-confident musician: one who's willing to share the spotlight to ensure that the music is good, and not just his own individual performance.
But since it is the drummer's record it's worth pointing out that Cortiñas does turn in a great performance here. He's not a thunderous drummer, often relying instead on tapped lines floating between the cymbals and toms to keep time for the band around him. He does take a solo track, "Interlude," where he does his thing, but he's playing more for polyrhythmic effect than to show off how loud he can play. Even here he morphs the solo into the rhythmic foundation for the next track, "Wish I Could Be There Now." He's clearly thinking compositionally.
Snapshot features really well written music with a melodic beat, excellent individual performances, and it's rewarding to listen to. It's a strong debut, and if it's any indication of things to come it'll be worth following the recording career of Gustavo Cortiñas.
Track Listing: Timing Is Everything; When I Leave You; Chimeras; Skepticism; La Balada
Del Leon; Hanaki;
Wish...(Interlude); Wish I Could Be There Now; When I Leave You (Another