Album Review: Live at Blue Bamboo from Chris Cortez

Album:  Live at Blue Bamboo
Artist:  Chris Cortez
Label:  Blue Bamboo Music

Rife with good vibrations, Live at Blue Bamboo from guitarist, songwriter, and bandleader Chris Cortez offers audiences a sweet escape from the rigors of the real world.  Recorded live, Cortez and his ensemble craft buoyant scores, requiring nothing more from listeners than to absorb the pleasing melodies sprinkled in improvisations that complement the arrangements.

Coalescing facets of straight ahead jazz, Latin swing, bop, and rhythm and blues, the recording is melody-driven, providing ample solo excursions from flutist Dan Jordan, trumpet player John DePaola, and tenor saxophonist Jeff Rupert.  The shuffling pattern of Bob Thornton's keys traipsing across “Arlington Park” is augmented by the incisions made by Rupert's sax and DePaola's trumpet, amplifying the jovial mood.  The bopping rhythm of "The Visit" is a sprightly piece, changing into a summery ambience along the flowing swells of "Awakenings."

Relaxing and reflective with stretches of rattling intervals, Cortez guides his ensemble along a vibrant course.  The R&B grooves of "Aarrgh" move with a sinuous glide that segues into the smooth caresses of "Melody Makes It Happen," written by Cortez as an ode to his wife Melody.  The tune has a burlesque swagger in Thornton's keys and a sultry soar in Rupert's saxophone toots that switches to a Latin swing rhythm along "The Rose of Shalamar."  Closing the recording is “A Remark You Made,” featuring Cortez’s reflective solo on acoustic guitar as he performs his interpretation of Joe Zawinil’s heartbreaking ballad.  The tune is dedicated to those lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mindful of his listeners and showing a desire to connect with them, Cortez's endeavor demonstrates a focus to elevate audiences and offer them a sweet escape.  Like others of his ilk, Cortez thrives in pleasing sensations.  But what sets him apart is his affection for the melody, and composing scores where the improvisations make complementing arcs in the fabric.  He balances traditional jazz idioms with improvised phrasing like a true bard of the jazz language.

Chris Cortez – guitar
Bob Thornton – piano
Joel Rosenblatt – drums
Ron Jenkins – bass
Jeff Rupert – tenor sax
John DePaola – trumpet
Jeff Sipe – drums
Doug Mathews – bass
Dan Jordan – flute


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