Pinoy jazz not dead: Paolo Cortez's debut album 'Not by Sight' inspires hope

Rick Olivares

Posted at Apr 07 2021 06:18 PM

Pinoy jazz not dead: Paolo Cortez's debut album 'Not by Sight' inspires hope 1
Paolo Cortez

MANILA -- Jazz guitarist Paolo Cortez’s debut album "Not By Sight" is sending a strong message to everyone willing to listen that they must “have faith” because it will get better for us.

The 11-track album released on compact disc by Swingster Jazz Mecca Records absolutely drips with that message of hope.

From the cover that depicts a hot air balloon sailing away to the breezy and uplifting tracks with song titles such as "Brighter Side,” “It’s Alright,” and “Godsglory” as well as the album packaging, Cortez is telling that even in this midst of this wretched pandemic that has sent everyone’s lives in disarray, we have to hold on and do what we can because it will get better.

Released at the end of March just past the first anniversary of the lockdown that Metro Manila still finds itself in, "Not By Sight" breathes life into this sordid life and the percolating jazz scene.

The album title is taken from 2 Corinthians 5:7 where the apostle Paul wrote, “For we live by faith and not by sight” that translates into “we live by believing and not seeing.”

Throw in “doing” as well.

“'Not By Sight' is a 10-year labor of love that was fast-tracked over the space of two days at Tago Jazz Café in Cubao,” said Cortez. “The pandemic that kept us at home gave me more time to work on the songs. When it seemed like 2021 was not going to get any better in terms of our lives going back to normal and us having shows and traveling to perform, we decided to record it once and for all.”

It is obvious that from the vibe of the album and the songs, Cortez and the band (drummer Chuck Menor, bassist Josh Tulagan, pianist Emman Rodulfo with Cortez on guitar) have taken a positive and lighthearted approach.

From the album art to even recording over two full days, it is all about going out of one’s comfort zone. Just like this pandemic.

And as a whole, it makes for a delectable listen. It’s light and yet pensive. It’s music you best listen to when not busy as you kick off the shoes or flip flops and immerse in the simple beauty of these audio paintings.

Cortez himself was an idealist when he went into performing jazz. He eventually realized that much of the local scene is still DIY. “I guess that is why it took me longer to get this music out,” he reasoned. “But at least, the songs have been refined and are much better than when I first wrote them.”

The drive that guitarist and his band have is to compose original music. “It’s easy to do cover music as that might be what most people want,” added Cortez. “But new songs, our original music is what will make the jazz scene grow.”

“Recording at home, doing everything in terms of production, you come away with a healthier respect for the specialists who do this. And personally, it was fulfilling.”