By John Murph | Published February 2021
Tino Contreras, 96, is the latest musician connected to U.K. tastemaker Gilles Peterson who will turns heads. In Mexico, the drummer attained luminary status for albums that blend bebop and modal jazz with shades of Afro-Latin, Middle Eastern and exotica. But for those unfamiliar with Contreras, La Noche De Los Dioses makes for an agreeable introduction.
Underpinning the album with themes about Aztec mythology, his hypnotic homages to various deities play into the current renaissance of spiritual jazz. The enchanting title track—where Contreras pays tribute to Coatlicue and Huitzilopochtli—is a composition he penned in the 1970s. Some psychedelic touchstones of the era heard in music by Santana and Luis Gasca radiant throughout, but with less emphasis on pyrotechnics. By stressing Contreras’ dreamy melodies and rhythms, the music luxuriates in the timbre of individual voices, particularly saxophonist Luis Calatayud—whose vinegary tenor tone recalls Gato Barbieri’s early years. The mystique of the music, however, wears thin. Themes concerning Aztec emperors certainly titillate, but the music doesn’t rise to such transcendent heights.
La Noche De Los Dioses: La Noche De Los Dioses; Máscaras Blues; Naboró; Malinche; El Sacrificio; Al Amanecer; Niña Yahel. (41:05)
Personnel: Tino Contreras, drums; Luis Calatayud, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, conch shell, ocarina; Valentino Contreras, electric bass; Jaime Reyes, keyboards; Emmanuel Laboriel, electric guitar; Marco Gallegos, acoustic guitar; Eduardo Flores, bongos; Carlos Icaza, harmonic arps, percussion.