Cuban musicians – especially those living outside the island nation – being exposed to an enormous palette of sound, have developed a worldview that has come to be a volcanic mix of Afro-Cuban and a myriad of vernaculars. The music on Goldstream by the Julian Gutierrez’s Project is the latest to pour its fecund music out of a momentous rhythmic vortex.
Julian Gutierrez Vinardell, composer, arranger, pianist, and leader of the project, is based in Montréal, Quebéc, Canada. He is also a music teacher in the city, which no doubt brings him in contact with a group of peers and younger musicians. This would certainly account for why his traditional Afro-Cuban vernacular is articulated in a remarkably refreshing manner. The root of virtually every piece has the infallible propulsive underpinning of Afro-Cuban rhythms. The ubiquitous rumble of the conga drums and the rattle and hum of the African American drum set, punctuated by the cowbell, leaves one in no doubt that the roots of this music is Afro-Cuban.
But those roots branch and flower into lilting pulses and living, breathing rubato – that ineffably deep source of jazz improvisation. Thus, Mr Gutierrez’s music dazzles in variety and originality of concept and execution. Melodies come at the listener in wave after wave of harmonic variations tossed above the incessant Afro-Cuban rhythms that rumble below. When written into the compositions are horns – trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone [and euphonium], and saxophones of tenor, alto and soprano pitches – that weave in and out of the piano, bass and percussion like a musical ocean-spray that takes the listener to and from the Caribbean island nation’s shores, into the wide world of music.
Pieces such as Caminando and Goldstream, Colores, Polymita and Flamingo Cubano are imbued with character as distinct from one another as the restless waters of the Atlantic tossed upon the Malecón in Havana is from the quietly flowing St Lawrence River rubbing shoulders with the island of Montréal. Bringing it all together is Mr Gutierrez’s refined and diffident pianism, informed by a calibre of virtuosity that leaves one unaware of anything but the music. He doesn’t need to shout his Cubanism out loud for the tradition to which he adheres. He slips quietly into montuno rhythm as if it were organic to any musical idiom that is in focus at the time. His is an empathetic relationship between fingers that caress the keys and an irrepressible tendency to shapeshift the pulse, frequently nudging the rhythmic flow between the many worlds of music that he inhabits.
The pianist is joined by a group of performers that are utterly sympathetic to his vision and musical conception. As a result, the Julian Gutierrez’s Project performs these works like a well-oiled machine that reverberates with music – now Afro-Cuban ensconced in Jazz, now Jazz flowing into an Afro-Cuban palette; melodies, harmonies and rhythms that spring from febrile musical minds, captured in the warmth of a beautiful recording.
Tracks – 1: Adaptate; 2: Canard Goûteux; 3: Caminando; 4: Goldstream; 5: Colores; 6: Polymita; 7: Flamingo Cubano; 8: Piloto Automatico
Musicians – Julian Gutierrez Vinardell: piano, compositions, and arrangements; Jean-François Martel: electric bass and arrangements; Axel Bonnaire: drums; Eugenio “Kiko” Osorio: congas and percussion. Guest Musicians – João Lenhari: flugelhorn and trumpet [1, 6]; Jean-Pierre Zanella: soprano and alto saxophones [5, 6, 8]; Guillaume Carpentier: tenor saxophone [4, 7] and tenor and alto saxophone arrangements [3, 7]; Muhamed Abdoul Al Khabir: trombone solo and euphonium. Arrangers – Dominic Rossi and Maxime Béchard-Pelletier: trumpet arrangements [3, 7]; Mathieu Tarlo and Jean-Philippe Dutil: trombone and euphonium arrangements [3, 7]
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 58:41
YouTube Playlist – Julian Gutierrez’s Project: Goldstream