Title - Live at Blue Bamboo
Artist - Chris Cortez
For those unaware, Chris Cortez is a busy man. The number of jobs he performs suggests the presence of more people. Guitarist, composer, vocalist, bandleader, arranger, producer, engineer, label head, entrepreneur, and community leader, to name a few. Cortez’ work ethic puts him in the middle of everything, and he always seems to be running non-stop.
In 2015 Chris paused the record label Blue Bamboo Music and returned to his hometown of Winter Park, Florida to build a performing arts center with his wife Melody. In six years’ time, Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts became a community asset, an amazing venue that supports the local and national music scene, presenting a diverse range of artists in an intimate concert setting.
Chris was named one of the most influential people in Central Florida by Winter Park Magazine and when asked how he managed to accomplish so much, Chris’ answer was “Start with it’s possible and the rest is logistics.”
Building community is the driving force. In 2013 Downbeat magazine published a profile piece called “Unified in Houston,” focusing on his label and its positive effects on that community of musicians. He is an advocate for the arts and for artists.
As Blue Bamboo, or ‘the boo” (as fans affectionately call it) became sustainable, Chris began to direct his focus back to his own personal musical goals and revived the label. The first recording project was Hermanos, a collaboration with old friend Larry Williams, which became a staple of jazz radio for most of 2022, rising to #1 on the RMR chart.
Chris’ guitar style is uniquely his own. There is a relentless sense of meter and precision. His vocabulary is instantly recognizable to fans of his previous work. Growth and evolution are obvious, but Cortez still sounds like Cortez. There is a compositional feeling in his solos.
Themes unfold with an emotional arc that takes you on a journey, and his songs provide the perfect backdrop for that kind of development. There is a landscape to explore. There are plenty of surprises, but everything makes sense and seems filled with intention.
His brand new album is entitled Live at Blue Bamboo and is one where Chris arranged several concert events; featuring drummers Joel Rosenblatt and Jeff Sipe, bassists Ron Jenkins and Doug Mathews, saxophonist Jeff Rupert, trumpeter John DePaola, flutist Dan Jordan, and pianist Bob Thornton.
Ergo, from the first notes, we are on a fun, e-ticket ride and that is no accident. Chris was inspired to make this record with these people. “I realized I had never made a live album and decided that was a challenge I needed to face,” Chris admits.
1. The Visit
2. That’s the Way of the World
3. Arlington Park
5. Different Strokes
7. Melody Makes It Happen (for Melody Cortez)
8. The Rose of Shalamar
9. A Remark You Made (for all those lost in the covid 19 pandemic)
The album opens on the collective vibrancy of The Visit (a tribute to guitar master Pat Martino with solos by Thornton, Cortez, and Sipe) and a veritably swinging rendition of the classic Earth Wind and Fire anthem That’s the Way of the World (featuring solos from Thornton, Jordan, and Cortez) and backs those up seamlessly with the 5/4 ensemble romp of Arlington Park (featuring solos by Rupert, DePaola, and Rosenblatt), the confident 7/4 vehicle Awakenings and then comes the up-tempo swing piece Different Strokes (featuring solos from Thornton, DePaola, and Rosenblatt).
Next up are the funky, mid-tempo grooves associated with the aptly-named Aarrgh (named for the sound made by an old man rising from a low chair and with solos by Cortez and Rupert) which is in turn followed by the lush, bluesy balladry of Melody Makes It Happen (noted as being a beautiful ode to his wife Melody of 30 years and featuring solos by Rupert and Thornton), the Latin hipsway of The Rose of Shalamar (an unforgettable ostinato in 15/8 with solos by Cortez, Mathews and Sipe), the album coming to a close on a quite breathtakingly stunning solo acoustic guitar interpretation of Joe Zawinil’s heartbreaking ballad A Remark You Made (noted as being for all those lost in the covid 19 pandemic).
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