"That's So Cool" reviews:
A fine guitarist, Mark Gutierrez was born and raised in Los Angeles. Trained in both jazz and classical music, Gutierrez plays gentle solos that are full of inner fire. He straddles over the boundary lines of several musical genres including Latin jazz, flamenco, pop and tangos while sounding very much like himself. In his career he has played with jazz and Latin artists including Justo Almario, Susie Hansen, Bobby Rodriguez, Bobby Matos, Johnny Blas, the Banda Brothers and Yve Evans.
On That's So Cool, Gutierrez is heard on guitars and piano while being joined by bassist Jose Marino. While some of the songs sound as comfortable as standards, all ten are originals by the guitarist and put the focus on his versatile and consistently melodic guitar. The music is soothing yet rhythmic, mellow yet full of subtle creativity.
That's So Cool (available from www.markgutierrez.net) is well worth several close listens.
Where That's So Cool begins and ends are similar points, but the journey between them makes for a fantastic listen. This 2010 album by Mark Gutierrez is a collection of instrumental pieces, centered on the guitar. Gutierrez puts his chops on full display by playing multiple guitars and layering them together, and the sound is further expanded through the use of occasional piano and mild percussion. Aside from the bass, played by Jose Marino, all the music on the album is flowing from the fingertips of Gutierrez, which makes for a staggering amount of sound.
Gutierrez is a remarkably talented musician, and it consistently shows from track to track. Not one of the ten songs on That's So Cool is lacking in intensely precise playing. By and large, the style is rooted in Spanish and Flamenco Guitar with some easy listening and jazz elements thrown in. Regardless of what influence he's drawing from, Gutierrez displays prodigious skill and energy.
The album's opener, "Two Years," starts off with a combination of a bouncy piano, soft rhythm guitar, shakers, and then the lead comes in. In many ways, it sounds like the traditional easy listening fare, but Gutierrez's lead playing picks up fast and gives the song a life of its own. As a comparison, if you were to take out the lead, the backing arrangement would be akin to something like the Allman Brother's "Jessica." While the song goes along, Gutierrez plays quickly yet gently, in a solo that is as soothing as it is dynamic. The second song, "Que Cosa" goes more heavily into the sound of the Spanish guitar and is more indicative of the sound of the album as a whole. The bass work from Marino also comes through on this song, adding an extra push to the rhythm Gutierrez plays by rapping on his guitar. About two minutes in, the amount of music being played is colossal, almost like a wall of sound, as more guitars work their way into the arrangement.
It's important to note that aside from Gutierrez's talent, the best part about this album is the mixing and production of it. Not only does every note come across in crystal clear fashion, but various instruments are relegated to either the left or right stereo channel, making each part easier to aurally recognize and enjoy. This is a fantastic aspect to That's So Cool, as very often, the rhythm guitar is just as riveting as the lead.
Mark Gutierrez is not an easy artist to categorize. During the course of this 44-minute instrumental album, the Los Angeles-based guitarist draws on everything from pop-jazz to Spanish flamenco to Afro-Cuban music to Brazilian music. Gutierrez, who produced and arranged That's So Cool himself, and composed all of the material, can be jazzy at times even though this isn’t a jazz recording per se. And although he has been influenced by a variety of music from Spain and different parts of Latin America, That's So Cool never gets into traditional flamenco, traditional Afro-Cuban music or traditional Brazilian music; everything he does is a hybrid of some sort. So it would be inaccurate to place That’s So Cool in any one category. But one thing is for certain: Gutierrez is a talented guitarist and as a composer, and his ability to keep listeners guessing is part of this album’s charm.
Gutierrez doesn't have a lot of accompaniment on this album, the only other musician who joins him being bassist Jose Marino. And when Gutierrez needs the occasional piano, he plays it himself. The guitar is his main instrument, but his acoustic piano solo on "Medianoche" demonstrates that he knows his way around the instrument as well. The fact that Gutierrez has chops, however, doesn't mean that he is a flashy or ostentatious type of player. Gutierrez is a very lyrical and melodic guitarist, and isn't one to beat listeners over the head with technique or pyrotechnics. In fact, his guitar playing tends to be introspective, light (though not lightweight) and understated whether he is drawing on pop-jazz, flamenco, Afro-Cuban music, Brazilian music or a combination of things. Again, Gutierrez is not a musician who fits neatly into any one particular category of music; stylistically, he is all over the place. And between his chops, compositional skills and appreciation of variety, "That's So Cool" isn't a bad listen at all.