GROOVOPOLIS - Blue Bamboo Music, Phone: 985-781-6062. www.bluebamboo.com. www.groovopolis.com. Go Home; Mr. Noom; Jammin’ With Jay; Moon Walk; What’s Going On; Say What; New Blood; Gnu Thang; Distinquitive; Piece of Cake; The Red Door; While You Were Gone; Esplanade.
PERSONNEL: Jay Webb, trumpet, fluegelhorn; Jeff Mills, drums, percussion; Lenny DiMartino, bass; Dean Fransen, keyboards; Christopher Cortez, guitar; Sam Sadigursky, tenorsax, flute; Gary Marcus, electric piano; Bobby “O” Oksa, tenor & alto sax.
By Winthrop Bedford
Clarity often starts with a definition. Given the title of this album, let’s start there. On the inside of the jacket Cortez provides a “dictionary definition” of the word “Groovopolis.” Groovopolis - (groov-op-e-lis) n. A musical location set within time and space where people meet. Regarded as the center of rhythmic activity. With that understanding guitarist Chris Cortez has put together four albums (one straight ahead excursion featuring standards, released in September 2003 entitled Hold It Right There, and Latin, jazz, fusion projects, Talamasca, Territorial Imperative, and this smoother one, Groovopolis.
Chris is based in New Orleans where he appears with both Humphrey Davis Jr. and Nightlife, a jazz and R&B variety group performing regularly at local clubs, Kaiso, which performs all over the south, and with his own group, Chris Cortez and Friends.
Cortez and company perform eleven originals on Groovopolis and covers of “Go Home” by Stevie Wonder, and “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye. “Go Home” is the album opener. This up-tempo funky classic is a bellweather for what’s to come on the rest of the album - tight ensemble work, a groove right out of “Groovopolis,” and ample space for soloing.
Next up is Cortez’ “Mr. Noom.” Taken at a relaxed tempo, this tune features a bouncy R&B backbeat, that goes hand in hand with a simple melody on the “A” section, and brief, albeit quite musically apropos solos from Cortez on guitar, Sam Sadigursky on tenor sax, and Fransen on piano.
“Jammin’ With Jay” sound like Joe Sample and the Crusaders might have influenced this piece. The piece opens with a light-touch piano intro and solo. Flavored with a subtle relaxed groove, both Webb, on trumpet, and Cortez contribute short solos.
“Moon Walk” and “While You Were Gone” are the two originals by Fransen. “Moon Walk” is another very relaxed tune, featuring composer Fransen contributing the subtle - less is more, fewer notes - kind of piano soloing Joe Sample offers. “While You Were Gone” brought up a number of different images and feelings. It is a beautiful ballad, without drums, whose bass introduction gave me the sensation I recall from an album by bassist Eberhard Weber on ECM album from the 70’s; and the clear, open sound of the fluegelhorn solo blended so well with Fransen’s accompaniment.
A more straight ahead kind of piece is Distinquitive - another bouncy backbeat kind of groove, harmonically supported by “turnaround” kinds of chord changes. Sadigursky contributes a smart, albeit (again) brief, tenor sax solo.
The album closes with Cortez’ “Esplanade” a bright piece that features a two chord underpinning, and a brief bridge section. Webb offers a brief muted trumpet solo. Cortez wraps up the album by turning in a tasteful solo and showing off some of his well-honed technique, all used to the musical of advantages. Following Chis Cortez’s release of convincing Latin-jazz and straight ahead recordings, Groovopolis, while more of a smooth, fusion creation, confirms the broad scope of his performing, improvising and composing skills.