Home Read Now Hear This: Tino Contreras | La Noche de los Dioses

Now Hear This: Tino Contreras | La Noche de los Dioses

I'm getting caught up on the good albums that have come out lately. Like this one.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:La Noche de los Dioses is the latest album from Mexico’s most established and prolific jazz drummer Tino Contreras. Here, Contreras presents a sonic gift; a kaleidoscope of evolving and shifting spiritual rumination about life and humanity. His new work features seven new recordings, contemporary jazz themes written and recorded in Mexico City in 2020. The love, beauty and challenges found within human connection are turned inside out through Contreras’ oscillating musical landscape; the drummer and jazz legend has melded his life of playing drums and composing music into a (another!) avant-garde experiment; a celestial reflection of the universe that we call home.

A second unfolding in the relationship between Gilles Peterson, Tino Contreras and musician and record collector Carlos Icaza, the LP was carved out by Contreras this year, following on from the reissue of Musica Infinita. Peterson first picked up a copy of Musica Infinita in Japan and in a serendipitous moment met Contreras back in 2019 in Mexico City, igniting the spark that led to the reissue and now to a new album on both of Peterson’s imprints. Contreras is joined by a host of musicians including his son Valentino Contreras on bass and Icaza on harmonic arps and pre-Hispanic percussion. In Peterson’s words, “This record is amazing! It represents his entire career in one. It captures the nightclubs of Mexico, the blues, the decadence … it’s a sassy subterranean cosmic sound …”

We are welcomed into the record with the title track La Noche de los Dioses, which draws on the two identities of the goddess Coatlicue (representing both life and death) and the god Huitzilopochtli, who symbolises the war and the sun within Aztec culture. Originally composed in the ’70s, the track transcends through the seductive soprano sax and abundant keys. Following this, Máscaras Blues beckons us in on the search for these personas, representing the masked rituals between gods in lengthy ceremonies. The expansion of the rhythms in this track is hypnotic, with luxuriating waves of the piano solo that spin you round and round until finally crashing away, softly.

The third track Naboró offers a glimpse of the inner mind of the drummer, introducing goddess Naboró, who Contreras imagined to represent both rebellion and feminine strength. Teamed with the next track, Malinche, a piece of music that unravels the identity of the translator and connector between Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II in a sanguine exploration of human intelligence, courage and integrity.

The fifth track, El Sacrificio, gestures to Contreras’ life on the road, weaving through his global travels from the last 50 years, landing in Turkey with a rhythm section fueled by ritual, climaxing in a whirlwind of characters and activity. The opulence is brought into meridian with the following track Al Amanecer, a purposeful but tranquil love letter to the daily dawn. It is “about the opportunity to be reborn into a new world,” says Tino Contreras. This optimistic pursuit underpins the album in full, highlighting Contreras’ restless and unfleeting energy to move the world forward. Niña Yahel, another identity emerging from Contreras’ imagination and a friend of his son Valentinos, representing hope for the future. This final piece offers both doubtless conviction in paying homage to the varied discography of Contreras and in rejuvenating the next generation with patience and force to go forth, aim higher.”