Dominican Drummer & Composer Ivanna Cuesta Gonzalez Pleads For The Earth’s Survival On Emotionally Attuned Debut Album A Letter To The Earth, out June 7 via Orenda Records

Pianist Kris Davis, Bassist Max Ridley, and Tenor Saxophonist Ben Solomon Buoy Gonzalez’s Ecological Visions

 

The highly sought-after Dominican drummer, composer, educator, and synthesist Ivanna Cuesta Gonzalez is proud to reveal her debut album, A Letter to the Earth, out June 7, 2024, via Orenda Records. This album of all original music features Gonzalez on drums and electronics, along with pianist Kris Davis, bassist Max Ridley, and tenor saxophonist Ben Solomon.

From an artist who’s been turning heads at least since her graduation from the Dominican Republic Conservatory of Music in 2015 and Berklee College of Music in 2020, A Letter to the Earth is a stunning opening salvo in service of the blue marble — our only home.

“Since I was little I always loved nature and I was surrounded by many trees, rivers, and beaches in my country, the Dominican Republic,” Gonzalez says. “But climate change is a reality, and everything that I experienced as a child has been disappearing so fast— and now, they are just memories.”

To that end, A Letter to the Earth not only keeps the memory alive; it’s a plea for humanity to reverse course, via its universal language. Eschewing any lecturing in favor of pure feeling, A Letter to the Earth is an atmospheric, evocative jaw dropper — with a cross-section of contemporary jazz’s best and brightest buoying her artistic vision.

The concept of A Letter to the Earth is a combination of free improvisation with electronic elements — all inspired by issues surrounding the dire reality of climate change.

It opens with its title track and main theme, “A Letter to the Earth,” which begins with an instrumental evocation of the elements, and gradually transitions into a haunting melody by way of Solomon. Over Davis’ piano accompaniment, his ostinato reveals itself to be the foundation of the tune — and blooms into a hopeful melody and harmony.

The shattered “Humans vs Humans” points toward humanity’s hubris, and endless zest for destructive “advancement.” “The power of technology has deprived us of our personal lives,” Gonzalez states. “[Oftentimes] there is no real bond of love or empathy between humans, but just the rush of being ‘connected.’”

As such, the intro is a combination of free improv between the sax and piano over a written melody, then progresses into a broken feel groove — leading to what Gonzalez characterizes as “the acoustic and electric fine balance between the simple and the complex.”

Ongoing Cycles” concerns itself with cycles and their repetitions. “It can be attributed to life processes that do not always start at the right time, but do their job at the right time,” Gonzalez says astutely. “In this song, the piano introduces an idea that moves, giving the other instruments the opportunity to coexist together — thus forming a repeating cycle.”

The penultimate track, “Duality,” features an astonishing push and pull between Gonzalez and Davis, underscoring the essential yin and yang of all things under the sun. And the minute-and-change closer, “Este Lugar” — translated to “in this place,” or “on this spot” It is a message of reflection and personal thoughts about her relationship with the earth — features a heartfelt voiceover from guest Pauli Camou over Gonzalez’s glacial, droning electronics.

A Letter to the Earth can be appreciated either on a messaging level or as pure sound — after all, Gonzalez has composed music for film. “I tried to use some elements of those styles in a way that the composition can be more as a journey,” Gonzalez concludes. “[My accompanists] knew what to play and respected my vision, but also brought great ideas that elevate everything for the better.

And with that, may this heartfelt Letter find you well.

 

ABOUT IVANNA CUESTA
Dominican drummer and composer. She graduated from the Dominican Republic Conservatory of Music in 2015 and from Berklee College of Music in 2020, where she studied with some of the most renowned musicians such as Neal Smith, Terri Lyne Carrington, Francisco Mela, and Tia Fuller, among others. Ivanna has performed at numerous major events around the world such as the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival 2020, Panama Jazz Festival, Premios Soberano Dominican Republic, Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival 2022-2023 at the Kennedy Center, Monheim Triennale Festival 2022, Santo Domingo Jazz Festival 2014-2015, The Hamptons Jazz Festival, among others.

Ivanna was part of numerous important bands in the Dominican Republic such as Socrates Garcia Latin Orchestral, Gustavo Rodríguez Trio, Javier Vargas, and Atre, among others. Also in 2018, Ivanna became part of the Paiste Cymbals family.

In 2019 she obtained first place in the 18-39 years old category of the “Hit like a Girl 2019” contest, where she had the opportunity to perform at PASIC 2019 Indianapolis. As an evolving artist, Ivanna has performed with some of the world’s greatest artists including Esperanza Spalding, Aaron Parks, Kandance Spring, Concha Buika, Kris Davis, Aaron Goldberg, Leo Blanco, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Nando Michelin Quartet, Tia Fuller, Alisa Amador (Winner of the 2022 NPR Tiny Desk Contest), Sócrates García Latin Jazz Orchestral, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, Pepe Rivero, etc.

Ivanna is also an educator and her motivation is to share her knowledge as a professional drummer and musician with others. She has been invited to give master classes at different schools and conservatories such as the University of Arkansas, the Conservatory of Puerto Rico, and the Conservatory of Music of the Dominican Republic.

In 2022, she was selected to be part of the Next Jazz Legacy program directed by Terri Lyne Carrington, where she worked and was mentored by Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding.

##

Track Listing:

  1. Chaos
  2. Humans vs Humans
  3. A Letter to the Earth
  4. Ongoing Cycles
  5. Duality
  6. Este Lugar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *