Houston, Texas is such a hot bed of jazz music that it has its own jazz mafia. However, as of late the Houston jazz mafia's Godmother, vocalist Tianna Hall has been letting several of her high-ranking officers get away. First to go was trumpeter capo regimeCarol Morgan, who decided to start her own jazz "Family" in New York City. Then went consigliere vocalist Jacqui Sutton, who decided to go legit with a professor type while remaining a jet setter. The latest to abscond is one guitarist, Chris Cortez, known as "The Strummer" around town, who has taken the business southeast to Florida.
But not before he cut Top Secret!. (Does anyone say "cut" a record anymore?) For this recording, Cortez had Austin, Texas luthier Ed Schaefer build him a "sexy and voluptuous" arch top (the guitar-woman metaphor never growing old...such is Romance). He named the guitar "Loretta." After having spent the previous year supporting Godmother Hall, Cortez got an expanded American Songbook under his skin and that exquisite irritation resulted in Top Secret.
Using a variety of rhythm sections and formats, Cortez puts together a detoured stroll through the American Songbook. Among a couple of well-composed originals are Earth, Wind and Fire's "That's The Way of the World" beside "Cry Me A River," and Frank Foster's "Simone" right beside "Stompin' and the Savoy." Very nice mix. Cortez's best tracks come from a little-big band, including "Cry me a River." The original "4:20," Leon Russell's "This Masquerade," and Cortez's own grand "New Blood" swing with a grace and evidence lacking from so many other releases.
4:20; That’s the Way of the World; Simone; Stompin’ at the Savoy;
Different Strokes; The Man I Love; Donna Lee; Cry Me a River; This
Masquerade; New Blood.
Chris Cortez; guitar, vocals (8); Paul English: piano (1, 2, 3, 5,
6, 9, 10); Anthony Sapp: bass (1, 6); Glen Ackerman: bass (3, 5,
9, 10); Andre Hayward: trombone (1, 8, 9, 10); Ken Easton: trumpet
(1, 8, 9, 10); Seth Paynter: tenor saxophone (1, 8, 9, 10); Warren
Sneed: alto saxophone (1, 8, 9, 10); Bill Murry: bass (2, 8); Joel
Fulgham: drums (3, 6, 9); Robert Aguilar: drums (2, 8); Greg
Petito: guitar (4, 7); Skip Nallia: piano (8).