Review: Gustavo Cortinas "Desafio Candente"


By Hrayr Attarian Gustavo Cortiñas Desafio Candente Gustavo Cortiñas – drums and percussion Drew Hansen – trumpet Artie Black – woodwinds Euan Edmonds – trombone Joaquín García – piano Kitt Lyles – bass Matt Gold - guitar (6, 7, 9 & 12) Xavier Quijas Yxayotl - flute and ancestral instruments (2 & 14) Javier Resendiz - piano (4) Roy McGrath - tenor sax (5) Victor Junito González - percussion (5) Bobby Delgado - percussion (5) Javier Quintana-Ocasio - percussion (5) Juan Pastor - percussion (6) Gros Ngolle Pokossi – bass (8) Yuri Hevia – percussion (9 & 13) Damián Rivero – voice (10) Jerónimo González - jarana (10) Victor Goines - clarinet (11) Luzius Devoun - voice (12) Edward Carpio - chorus vocals and huiro (12) Graciela Morales – spoken word (1) Angelina Suyul – spoken word (2) Esteban Martínez – spoken word (3) Mercedes Inez Martinez– spoken word (4) Omar Torres-Kortright – spoken word (5) Carlos Robles – spoken word (6) Maria Allemana – spoken word (7) Stephanie Woods Machado – spoken word (8) Sebastián Valenzuela – spoken word (9) Andrés Cortiñas – spoken word (10) Daniel Castro – spoken word (11) Nancy Pantoja– spoken word (12) Gabriela Fouilloux – spoken word (13) Chicago based drummer and composer Gustavo Cortiñas’ third release as a leader, the magnificent Desafio Candente is an ambitious work both in depth and breadth. Cortiñas draws inspiration from Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s iconic “The Open Veins of Latin America” in crafting these 14 sublime originals . Various musicians and speakers from several countries augment the core sextet giving the music a captivating theatricality and infusing it with vibrant folk motifs. For instance, “Los Caudillos Campesinos” (The Peasant Leaders) is dedicated to independence movements in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala. It opens with Andrés Cortiñas evocatively reading from Galeano’s book. Argentinian vocalist Damián Rivero launches into a warm song that develops over rollicking rhythms, high blowing horns and Jerónimo González’s chiming jarana jarocha (a guitar like Mexican instrument). Bisecting this intriguing tune is trumpeter Drew Hansen’s lilting and intelligent solo. Similarly, on “Abya Yala”, poet Angelina Suyul recites in Tzotzil, a Mayan language from the Chiapas, her own words. She talks about the spirit of the native civilizations and their healing relationship with the environment that is damaged by capitalist excesses. Recently departed multi-instrumentalist Xavier Quijas Yxayotl enhances the cinematic mood with his array of ancestral flutes. The spontaneous ensemble is intricately textured and lyrical with distinct individual styles complementing one another. Hansen blows burnished tones while woodwind player Artie Black on bass clarinet and trombonist Euan Edmonds create a tense and expectant ambience. Cortiñas makes his instruments rustle and percolate while pianist Joaquín García peppers the performance with clusters of angular notes. Nature sounds mix with darker phrases for a solemn and wistful conclusion. Cortiñas is not only retelling momentous occurrences in the continent’s past. His stimulating masterpiece is also a condemnation of colonialism, imperialism, and neoliberalism. The provocative piece “Pachacuti” is about genocide of indigenous peoples and continued violence against them. The text is an Aztec account in Nahuatl, from the book of Broken Spears, about the last days of Tenochtitlan. It not only reflects the pain and anger at these injustices it also demonstrates Cortiñas’ versatility and brilliance. His martial drumbeats follow and replace Esteban Martínez’s emotive words culminating in a collective boom. The horns also channel a marche that transforms into a melancholic nocturne. Garcia’s shimmering chords flow in graceful cascades as bassist Kitt Lyles plucks angsty reverberating lines. Slowly each man takes a divergent path leading to an unfettered extemporization filled with delightful dissonance. Elsewhere the melancholic “La Mano Invisible” penned for Salvador Allende is about interventionism. Allende was the democratically elected socialist president of Chile who was overthrown in a CIA sponsored coup ushering Augusto Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship. It has a blues-drenched call and response structure. Clarinetist Victor Goines trades bittersweet choruses with the front line over a meandering cadence. Midway the group bursts into an exuberant New Orleans’ flavored melody. Another guest, guitarist Matt Gold, enhances few of the tracks with his eloquent improvisations. Most notably Gold takes center stage on the passionate “El Jinete y el Caballo (The Rider & the Horse)” with a Latin flavored and intimate soliloquy that brims with incandescence and thrills with its subtle virtuosity. Cortiñas will release videos of his compositions over 14 months, each on an important historical anniversary. As an example, “Overture”, superbly shot and directed, became available on his website and on Youtube on November 20th, 2020, the date of the Mexican Revolution. Likewise, the short film of “Combustible Humano” will premiere on Juneteenth 2021 and so on. The album itself appears on bassist Matt Ulery’s label Woolgathering Records with painter Carmen Chami providing its exquisite cover art. Desafio Candente is innovative, elegant, and relevant. It is socially engaged music with themes that are simultaneously timely and timeless. #GustavoCortiñas #DesafioCandente #Review #Jazz #LatinJazz #ChicagoJazz #DrewHansen #ArtieBlack#EuanEdmonds #JoaquínGarcía #KittLyles #MattGold #XavierQuijasYxayotl #JavierResendiz #RoyMcGrath#VictorJunitoGonzález #BobbyDelgado #JavierQuintanaOcasio #JuanPastor #GrosNgollePokossi #YuriHevia#DamiánRivero #JerónimoGonzález #VictorGoines #LuziusDevoun #EdwardCarpio #GracielaMorales#AngelinaSuyul #EstebanMartínez #MercedesInezMartinez #OmarTorresKortright #CarlosRobles #MariaAllemana#StephanieWoodsMachado #SebastiánValenzuela #AndrésCortiñas #DanielCastro #NancyPantoja #GabrielaFouilloux