When you name your ensemble the Cortez/Williams Project, and your new album is called Hermanos, you might think that this is all about two longtime friends, musicians, who finally got enough free time to hang out and make music on their own. Maybe they discovered an amazing synergy along the way, and now they’re going to tour together–an awesome statement to make casually since so many contemporary jazz artists have been struggling to perform and survive during the pandemic.
Chris Cortez, a guitarist, and Larry Williams, a horn player (trumpet and flugelhorn), have known each other a long time, which is why Cortez says Hermanos was “forty years in the making.” Sure enough, these two old friends spend much of the album having a deep, deep conversation, guitars and horns interweaving and then running parallel, producing a meticulous mix of jazz genres, mostly inspired by Latin influences. But the Cortez/Williams Project is not a duo. It’s a quartet, four distinct personalities, and Hermanos is, quite simply, the type of jazz album that hits the right notes right from the first few seconds.
Quartet, huh? You’re thinking of a traditional rhythm section, I bet. In this case, Dan Jordan plays tenor sax, flute and alto flute, while Bob Thornton plays the piano. There is percussion, supplied by Williams, that thrives on its very economy–you’ve never heard a simple wood block carve such a big piece out of a song as you will here. Yet there’s nothing missing in the Cortez/Williams Project, no gaping holes where music should be, and that’s because you’re hearing four voices and each one has something to say at the right time.
This makes for a jazz album that resembles a film where all the characters talk throughout, and the deepest plot points are generated by the relationship we see on the screen. The Cortex/Williams Project takes that idea, of four longtime friends who have rarely been in the same place at the same time, all together in a room for the first time. There’s a confidence and joy to Hermanos, and you’ll hear the friendships and warmth in every note.