A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans (BM Jazz, Minor in Philosophy, Magna Cum Laude, 2011), and Northwestern University (MM Jazz, 2013), Gustavo has performed and recorded with many great individuals and ensembles in the USA, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. “In his playing stands out the dynamic rhythm section interaction, swing, and keen focus on melodic development – a result of his interactions and discussions with his mentors, Johnny Vidacovich, Wayne Maureau, Willie Jones III, Victor Goines and Hernán Hecht - which together with his familiarity with the jazz tradition and the musical traditions of his native Mexico and Latin-America, offer a new and fresh sound” (Cristina Zenteno, El Heraldo de Chiapas). This can be heard on his latest record "Snapshot" (July 2013) "a Smörgåsbord of the moods and nuances that make up the human experience... an idiosyncratic album that intrinsically fuses the personal to the universal...most listeners will empathize with this introspective music, as showcased by the interplay of his pluralistic ensemble” (Lissette Corsa, Jazziz Magazine). The album features "a lineup of nine original songs , performed in collaboration with a band of musicians of absolute value, both from a technical and expressive. (Roberto Paviglianiti, Suono, Italia),including Lincoln Center's saxophone and clarinetist extraordinaire Victor Goines (tenor sax), and Von Freeman's Mike Allemana (guitar), as well as Justin Copeland (trumpet), Roy McGrath (tenor sax) and Kitt Lyles (upright bass). “This nine song program sheds a light on the many and varied talents of Gustavo Cortiñas... gives pause to admire the musical skills, taste, touch and compositional acumen of a fine musician. Cortiñas creates music that's driving, episodic and straightforward” -(Dan Bilawski, All About Jazz). “Really slick. First class stuff… a very colorful and emotional musical trip. (Johnny Vidacovich).
Gustavo started playing the drums at the age of ten, studying under Santiago Fortson, Rodrigo Jimenez and Hernán Hecht. Throughout his teens he engaged in contrasting musical ensembles that brewed in the exotic life of Mexico City. By the time he was in Hi-School, we was invited to perform with college level ensembles at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios de la Música (CIEM). In the Fall of 2007, at age 19, he was awarded a scholarship to study jazz at Loyola University New Orleans, under drum masters Johnny Vidacovich and Wayne Maureau. At Loyola, Gustavo’s talent was recognized, earning him a place in the top jazz and classical ensembles of the university, and invitations to professionally perform with his teachers John Mahoney and Ray Moore. This led to Gustavo’s performances at the Louisiana Music Educator’s Association Convention in 2010, the Jazz Educator’s Network Conference in 2011, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in multiple occasions, and university performances with Aaron Goldberg, Robin Eubanks, Nicholas Payton and Victor Goines.
In 2011, he won the “Outstanding Jazz Student” Award, and was given the prestigious Gerry & Franca Mulligan Foundation Scholarship, for his outstanding development and achievement in jazz at Loyola. While in New Orleans, he performed with the city’s most talented players and became a fixture on the local scene. This led to his long-standing musical partnership with saxophonist Roy McGrath, with whom he has been playing since 2009. Gustavo was featured on McGrath's debut record "Long Shot" along with Gustavo’s composition “When I Leave You.” The birth of the Collective Vision Sextet, which recorded an album in 2010, was another product of Gustavo’s musical ventures in New Orleans, also featuring Sebastian Valenzuela, Leland Baker, Woody Rinker, Erin Demastes and Calvin Morin-Martin.
In 2011, funded by the Rev. John M. Krump Endowed Scholarship, Gustavo moved to Chicago, to pursue a Master of Music in Jazz Studies degree at Northwestern University, studying under Willie Jones III and Victor Goines. At Northwestern, Gustavo got the opportunity to perform with jazz greats Rich DeRosa, Sherman Irby, Terrell Stafford, Elliot Mason, Carlos Henriquez and Victor Goines. While studying for his degree, he performed in numerous venues in the Chicago area, both leading his own groups and serving as a sideman for some of the Windy City’s most notable musicians. Highlights included performances with Victor Goines, Marlene Rosenberg, Mike Allemana, Geoff Bradfield, Justin Copeland, Cristian Larumbe, Yuyo Verde Tango Band, the Four Star Brass Band, Roy McGrath, Andrew Janak and Wind Armada, Marquis Hill, and Kitt Lyles, amongst others.
In 2012, he assembled his eponymous quintet, which performs all original music pieces composed and arranged by himself. Gustavo’s compositions have been performed internationally to sold out audiences in the USA, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Great Britain. For his critically acclaimed debut album, “Snapshot” released in 2013, which featured Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s clarinetist and saxophonist extraordinaire Victor Goines, and NEA Jazz Master Von Freeman’s guitarist for twenty years Michael Allemana, along with some of Chicago’s brightest musical minds. Gustavo was the producer, composer and drummer for this album. This holistic work of art has been described as ”a Smörgåsbord of the moods and nuances that make up the human experience... an idiosyncratic album that intrinsically fuses the personal to the universal... most listeners will
empathize with this introspective music, as showcased by the interplay of his pluralistic ensemble...Their simpatico contributions create a rich and cohesive listening experience. A spirited brass fueled excursion”. His impromptu has been described as “minimalist, deceptively understated yet vital touches that embellish. Stylistic sophistication in Cortiñas' arrangements, propulsive rollicking drum solos. Dramatic." Since the album’s release, the band has headlined at some of the world’s greatest jazz clubs, such as Andy’s Jazz Club (Chicago), Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro (New Orleans), Something Jazz Club (NYC), Bert’s Jazz Club (Belfast, Northern Ireland), performing at major jazz festivals such as the Espontaneo 2013 (San Cristobal de las Casas, MX), Festival de Jazz Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutierrez, MX), Oxigeno 2013 (Mexican Radio Institute), and featured in the jazz Institute of Chicago’s 2014 Next Generation Jazz Series at the Drake Hotel.
2013 saw the recording of two other projects that featured major involvement by Cortiñas. The first was, “Do I Know You?” by Sasha Bayan, the eclectic Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, composer and arranger, in which Gustavo joined as an associate-producer and drummer. The second one was “Peregrino”, Mexican jazz guitar icon Marco Durán’s new project, which features Gustavo and the members of his quintet.
Since his departure from Mexico in 2007, Mr. Cortiñas has remained in touch with the music scene in Mexico. He returns to his homeland for tours and performances, both leading his own groups and accompanying those of other notable Mexican musicians. Highlights include performances with Luri Molina, Diego Maroto, Aarón Cruz, Federico Húlsz, Ottis Ganceda, and many more. The release of Marco Durán's record "El Camino" in 2010, featuring Aarón Cruz and Jaime De La Parra on bass, as well as Silberén's "Dibujando con Sonidos" (2011), and Nobajoq's "Marchante" (2008) are some of the products of these musical ventures. Coming soon is also Marco Durán’s latest production “Peregrino” (2014) and Hüno’s “Amores Ajenos” (2014).
Mr. Cortiñas is also heavily involved in the education field, having solid experience teaching at the private and classroom level to students of all ages and levels. Gustavo was the founder and coordinator of the Drum Club, a group drum class at the Edron Academy, El Colegio Británico (DF, MX) which lasted form 2003-2007. He has also had ample experience organizing workshops and clinics for students of jazz percussion, jazz combos and jazz improvisation in many cities in Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States. In addition to his participation with the John Mahoney Group in the LMEA and JEN Conferences, Gustavo has also done clinics at Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas (Chiapas, MX), Seminario de Música Marco Durán (Mexico City, MX), Universidad del Turabo (Gurabo, PR), Escuela de Música Do Central (DF, MX), and many more. Mr. Cortiñas is currently the drum instructor at the Flats & Sharpe Music Academy in Chicago, where he teaches drums and percussion to students of all ages.
Justin completed a B.A. in Music Performance at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) in 2011, and subsequently a M.M. in Jazz Studies at Northwestern University in June of 2013. Throughout the recent years, he has had the privilege of performing with and learning from world-class musicians inside and outside of Northwestern, like saxophonist, composer and educator Victor Goines, trumpeter, educator and counselor Dr. Michael Caldwell, trumpeter and educator Brad Mason, saxophonist, composer/arranger, and educator Christopher Madsen, saxophonist and educator Sherman Irby, trombonist Elliot Mason, drummer, composer/arranger and educator Rich DeRosa, legendary bassist and educator Rufus Reid, legendary trombonist Curtis Fuller, world-renown jazz educator David Baker, and legendary saxophonist and educator Nathan Davis, as well as many many others.
Justin has also had the recent privilege to perform at some of the most premier houses of jazz, like New Orleans' premier jazz club, Snug Harbor, the main stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and Dizzy's Club Coca Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC.
A graduate from Loyola University New Orleans (BM Jazz 2009), where he studied with Tony Dagradi (saxophonist for Ellis Marsalis, Astral Project) and Northwestern University (MM Jazz, 2014), where he had the opportunity of studying under Victor Goines (saxophonist for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Wynton Marsalis), Roy McGrath is a tenor saxophonist, composer, bandleader and sideman currently residing in Chicago, IL. With a career in music spanning over ten years, Roy McGrath has been around the world and back playing music, appearing at some of the world’s most prestigious music venues, amongst them the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Festival de Jazz Espontáneo 2013, Tipitina’s (New Orleans, LA), Carli’s Fine Bistro and Piano (San Juan, PR), Andy’s Jazz Club (Chicago, IL), Zinco Jazz Club (Mexico City, MX), and many more. McGrath, is a “magician of the wind instruments on the tenor sax, which he literally makes laugh, cry, play and vibrate with pain and impotence whilst he executes each composition” (Victor Vieyra Santa María, Mirada Sur); his playing is characterized by a “gently caressing yearning tenor… darkly hued vibrato-filled saxophone sound” (Hrayr Attarian, Chicago Jazz Magazine), as well as “his bluesy feel and amiable sax sound that at sometimes reminds us of Joe Henderson or Rick Margitza” (Ragui Vega, Nuevo Dia). McGrath “gives life to clear solos that are prudently polished” (Roberto Pavigianiti, JazzItalia). His critically acclaimed debut album “Long Shot” (2010), features some of his great original compositions, as well as his familiarity and understanding of the jazz idiom and standard repertoire, alongside bassist Trey Boudreaux and drummer Gustavo Cortiñas. He is currently working on new material for his second production “Martha”. McGrath placed third in the Union League Civic Arts Foundation Jazz Improvisation Competition in 2013 (Chicago, IL).
Born and raised in San Juan, PR, Roy was first introduced to music performance through singing in school choirs before picking up the saxophone at age 16. After attending the Berklee College of Music Summer Workshop, he earned a full scholarship to attend Berklee School of Music’s Five Week Summer Performance Program. In Puerto Rico, he honed his improvisational skills by performing with world-class jazz pianist and Beach Boys’ alumni Carli Muñoz.
In 2006, Roy moved to New Orleans to pursue his studies at Loyola University under the tutelage of Tony Dagradi (saxophonist for Astral Project) and composer/arranger John Mahoney. He graduated in 2009 with BM in Jazz Performance. During his time in New Orleans, Roy performed with a variety of musicians including: Gustavo Cortiñas, Trey Boudreaux, Chris Guccione, Joshua Gouzy, Marlena Dzis, Fredy Omar, John Marcey, Café Con Leche and Easy Company. McGrath became “a veternan of the hottests clubs in New Orleans, like Tipitinas,” (Ragui Vega, Nuevo Dia), Maison Frenchmen, Vaso, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the New Orleans French Quarter Fest.
After his undergraduate studies, McGrath continued putting all he learned at school to practice. In 2009 he joined the Camp-of-the-Woods wind ensemble playing Broadway, big band, contemporary jazz, classical, and worship music in Speculator, NY. He performed with this ensemble for four years, including serving as the Director of Jazz Small Ensembles and Big Band for two years. He also travelled the world working for Suman Entertainment as a tenor saxophonist and doubler on alto/clarinet/flute on cruise ships, and worked intermittently as a professional saxophonist in New Orleans and Puerto Rico.
In 2012, McGrath moved to Chicago to pursue his Master of Music studies at Northwestern University, graduating in 2014. At Northwestern he had the honor of studying under saxophonist and clarinetist extraordinaire Victor Goines (Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra). Since his moving to Chicago, McGrath has established himself as one of the most on demand saxophonists in the Chicago music scene, leading his own groups, and performing with ensembles like legendary drummer Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub, Four Star Brass Band, Aaaron Schapiro’s Every-People Big Band, the Gustavo Cortiñas Snapshot. He has performed in some of the city’s most renowned venues, such Andy’s Jazz Club, Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, the Drake Hotel, The Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Next Generation Jazz Series, the Chicago Jazz festival and many more. He also transcribes, arranges, and composes music for a variety of situations, and currently works as the Woodwind/Brasswind instructor at Flatt’s and Shape Musical Academy in Chicago. He has taught masterclasses on improvisation in Mexico and at the Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico;
Roy has played on numerous recordings, both as sideman and bandleader. He recorded on Easy Company’s self-titled album in 2009, produced by five-time Grammy winner John Snyder and five-time Grammy winning recording engineer David Farrell. In 2010, he recorded an album as leader entitled Long Shot. In 2013 he played on Gustavo Cortinas’ album Snapshot, in which he “is featured on a diverse array of music, from the mellow ("When I Leave You") to the stitched together ("Skepticism") to the comfortably swinging ("Hanaki")” (Dan Bilawski, All About Jazz). On Gustavo’s “When I Leave You”, “McGrath offers an unabashedly romantic solo” (Florence Wetzel, All About Jazz).
Kitt Lyles is an upright and electric bassist, bandleader, composer, arranger, and educator from Greenville, SC currently residing in Chicago, IL. A graduate of Northwestern University (BM Jazz Studies, June 2013) he is well versed in a multitude of different music traditions and genres including Jazz, Blues, Latin, Rock, Funk, Bluegrass, Folk, and Classical. He has performed nationally and internationally with many dedicated and talented musicians and recorded on several diverse studio projects.
Kitt Lyles began his music career in South Carolina at the age of 13 when he bought a bass in order to perform Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” in the talent show at his middle school. He hasn’t looked back since, discovering jazz at the Greenville Fine Arts Center in the 10th grade where he studied with former LA studio musician Steve Watson and not long after began his study of upright bass with Greenville Symphony Principal Bassist Ian Bracchitta. His passion for music led him to continue his studies with Ian Bracchitta at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. At UNCA he also had the opportunity to study big band arranging and composition with David Wilken, eventually having a composition of his performed by the Asheville Jazz Orchestra. He got his first classical performance experience while in Asheville as a member of the UNCA Chamber Orchestra, and in a performance with the Blue Ridge Symphony Orchestra at the Diana Wortham Theatre.
After a year in Asheville, Kitt’s desire to delve deeper into the jazz tradition led him to Chicago to finish his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University where he studied with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis Septet members Victor Goines and Carlos Henriquez, as well as Chicago saxophonist, composer, and arranger Chris Madsen. Under the guidance of these inspirational teachers Kitt further honed his skills as a performer, composer, arranger, bandleader, and sideman. He also strengthened his artistic vision and understanding of jazz’s relevance and influence in the world.
While at Northwestern, Kitt met some of the amazing musicians he continues to work with regularly including Gustavo Cortiñas, Roy McGrath, and Justin Copeland. He performed on Cortiñas’ All About Jazz reviewed debut album “Snapshot” featuring Victor Goines and Mike Allemana, and toured with Cortiñas group in Mexico including performances at Zinco Jazz Club in Mexico City, and The Spontaneous Jazz Festival in San Cristobal, Mexico. After graduating from Northwestern Kitt stayed in Chicago to begin his professional music career where he performs with Cortiñas’ group, the Roy McGrath Jazz Trio, The Christian Larumbe Trio, Yuri Hevia, Funky Hot Grits, and others. Venues in Chicago he has performed at include The Jazz Showcase, Fitzgerald’s, The Chicago Jazz Festival, The M-Lounge, The Music Institute of Chicago’s Billy Strayhorn Festival, and Mayne Stage. In addition to performing, Kitt teaches privately and with Judy Lei Strings and Music Scholars Inc.