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Gustavo Cortiñas: Snapshot

Jack Bowers By

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Drummer Gustavo Cortinas, who leads a group of admirable musicians on his engaging debut album, Snapshot, was born in Mexico, received his higher education in the States (Loyola University, New Orleans; Northwestern University) and currently resides in Chicago. Besides playing drums, Cortinas wrote and arranged every number on Snapshot, showing impressive proficiency in those areas as well. This is for the most part a sextet session with alternating tenor saxophonists, one of whom, Victor Goines, a native of New Orleans, is director of Jazz Studies at Northwestern. The other, Roy McGrath, is one of Goines' students at the university. Neither appears on Track 7 ("Wish . . . Interlude," a showcase for Cortinas' solo drum kit) or 9 ("When I Leave You—Another Perspective").

Not surprisingly, the other members of the group—trumpeter Justin Copeland, guitarist Mike Allemana, bassist Kitt Lyles—are recent graduates of Northwestern's Jazz Studies program, which seems to be in good hands. Goines, who has performed and recorded with a galaxy of well-known artists and is a former member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet, displays his warmth and muscularity on three numbers ("Timing Is Everything," "La Balada del Leon," "Wish I Could Be There Now"), McGrath on four others. Copeland complements them nicely, crafting articulate statements from the Freddie Hubbard / Donald Byrd school of free-flowing bop. Cortinas is a splendid drummer, well-schooled (obviously) and adept with sticks, brushes and / or cymbals. He knows when to push, when to lay back and when to add buoyancy or weight to a particular passage. With the exception of "Wish . . . Interlude," Cortinas plays a largely supportive role, and does it quite well. The same holds true for Allemana and Lyles, even though each is given room to stretch, most notably on the turbulent "Skepticism," "La Balada del Leon" (Lyles) and "Wish I Could Be There Now" (Allemana). A further word must be said about Cortinas' writing, which is laudable throughout, especially on "Timing Is Everything," "Hanaki" and the rhythmic "Wish I Could Be There Now." While he writes with specific people and / or events in mind, the listener need not be conversant with them to elicit sizable pleasure.

In sum, a commendable album by musicians whose names (with the exception of Goines) may be unfamiliar but whose special talents are readily apparent.

Track Listing: Timing Is Everything; When I Leave You; Chimeras; Skepticism; La Balada de León; Hanaki; Wish… (Interlude); Wish I Could Be There Now; When I Leave You (Another Perspective).

Personnel: Justin Copeland: trumpet; Victor Goines: tenor saxophone (1, 5, 8); Roy McGrath: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 4, 6); Michael Allemana: guitar; Kitt Lyles: double bass; Gustavo Cortiñas: drums, cymbals.

Title: Snapshot | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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