Gustavo Cortiñas turns the immigrant experience into a songbook in Kind Regards – Saludos Afectuosos.
Due out September 2, 2022 via Desafío Candente Records
Chicago bandleader and composer Gustavo Cortiñas has a talent for conceiving and executing projects that are ambitious in scope. His 2021 release Desafío Candente, a sprawling meditation on Latin American life and struggles, earned a well-deserved spot in Jazziz Magazine’s list of the 2021’s Best Releases among other critical praise. Now, Cortiñas builds upon that foundation with his fourth release as a leader, Kind Regards – Saludos Afectuosos, due out September 2, 2022 on his own label Desafío Candente Records.
The subject matter on Kind Regards focuses on the immigrant experience in the US — its cover depicts an image of two children on each side of the border wall between the US and Mexico. “Kind Regards gives life, through music, to words that attempt to build bridges and understanding in times of borders and ignorance; words that focus on our feet and the dust on which they walk, instead of the stars under which they dream,” the bandleader explains. And words are indeed the fundamental focus of this music, as the album is a collection of songs in which the bandleader was both the composer and lyricist in its entirety, representing a significant departure and evolution from previous work.
The opening track “I Hope You Have a Good Phone Call Today,” evokes a nostalgic and empathetic feeling for anyone who has spent significant time away from their homeland. One verse poignantly declares, “Dear Stranger, World of tears, smiles and thoughts. Far removed from loved ones.” This sentimental sensation permeates the album ideologically, while the tracks are performed with a deep connection to optimism, steering away from melancholy. The ensemble shines as a close knit unit, often favoring group interplay over excessive individual soloing.
Striking a satisfying balance between a breathy voice and one of depth and body, vocalist Meghan Stagl assumes a compelling responsibility of singing the ten originals (with lyrics in both English and Spanish) while also playing piano. Tracks like “Libertad” and “When I leave you” find Stagl overdubbing dense harmonies against the main takes to great effect.
Stagl finds an able partner in Emily Kuhn on trumpet, who complements the main verses of each track in a game of call-and-response between horn and vocals. Kuhn’s lengthy solo on “Emigraste” showcases an aptitude for lyricism, making strong and calculated melodic choices while showcasing her warm and inviting tone.
Guitarist Erik Skov proves to be an important piece in the puzzle as he fulfills a variety of roles in this compact collection. At times, he plays funky muted lines, while other moments find the guitarist amid lush soundscapes and solos wrought by his strong grasp of bebop vocabulary. His versatility, however, is on paramount display for “Libertad,” where his acoustics brush over a rhythm reminiscent of a Mexican Huapango, a style not commonly mastered by jazz musicians.
Cortiñas has a comprehensive knowledge of Latin American rhythms that, matched with his synergetic interplay with bassist Katie Ernst, allows this music to dance. Ernst plays with a robust sound and rhythmic assertiveness, providing a strong support for the anchor ensemble on this recording. Displaying profound maturity and restraint in their playing, each instrumentalist surrenders himself to the music without indulging in flashiness.
Embracing a multicultural language, while investing in a variety of disciplines within the music itself, composer, bandleader, drummer and now lyricist Gustavo Cortiñas continues to surpass himself in the breadth of his work. Kind Regards is a stellar outing in the career of an expansive artist who will continue to defy categorization in many years to come.
- I Hope You Have a Good Phone Call Today
- If I Learned Today
- When I Leave You
- Madrugada Nebulosa
- Wednesday Can’t Come Fast Enough