Street Signs: A Love Letter to the Angel City (live @Angel City Jazz Festival)



What an incredible experience this was. First of all, to perform in the Angel City Jazz Festival was incredible, it was not long ago that I sat in the audience cherishing an opportunity like this and we got it!!! Then performing the world premiere of my Los Angeles Jazz Society-Commissioned piece Street Signs: A Love Letter to the Angel City, having Don Byron, and Martha Gonzales, oh my!


Following along with performing the west coast-premiere of Ornette Coleman’s Skies of America, wow!!! If that was not enough, legend Pharaoh Sanders closed this memorable evening with one of my heroes on drums, the one and only, Marvin “Smitty” Smith! We had a sold out show and they were gracious enough to give us a standing ovation each time we performed. Certainly 2016 has been quite a “pinch-me” type of year. for Gurrisonic Orchestra and myself.


Written for my son Camilo; Aquí provokes a composition style in me of high-energy imagery and movement, mixed with the twangy-sounds of the electric guitar of the mighty Alexander Noice. Every time we perform this piece, I am reminded of the ridiculously talented woodwind and brass sections of Gurrisonic Orchestra, whom interpret this music in a prodigious way. The winds of Bartok and Stravinsky were certainly beating my window when this piece was composed.

Three Kids Music

This composition was easy to write and was done in a very short space of time, with all the notes that I felt were meant to be in it, no more, no less. Moreover, the performance process was also effortless, as Areni’s interpretation manifested the embracing character I had intended for it, and trickled down on us all.

In Your Face

There is some intense playing on this score. In particular by violist Lauren Baba who does an outstanding job, as well as flutist Christine Tavolacci who destroys a through-composed solo I wrote for her with so much gusto and poise. 
I have always loved mid-tempo half-time shuffles and it was evident to me that that rhythm would be the drumming of choice to propel this music in the right direction. Renaissance man Eric KM Clark sampled a text I wrote about my personal meaning of the phrase “In Your Face”; we had a lot of fun having it start the whole piece in our live performances. I always get a kick out of the shouting section at the end; if we don’t shout our hearts out convincingly, we “don’t sell it” and the culmination of the tune could be compromised. It has never happened, but the thought of it keeps us on our toes until the very last note.

Constant Deprivation of Monetary Funds (The Beast)-studio

This tune originally featured texts by my late grandmother Esperanza. My grandma’s writing is epic and very passionate, a true testament to how she lived her life. Along those lines, I have been very influenced by the vitality and grandiose aspect of musicians like trumpet player Daniel Rosenboom and woodwind player Gavin Templeton, two artists that have set the bar very high on what a consummate musician should aspire to be. I wanted to write some high-octane-string section playing to provide an environment in which Dan’s trumpet and Gavin’s sax could flourish weaving in and out of the arrangement.

Movement IV:The Conquest. The Imaginary

This is a brand new piece folks. It is part of the music that will eventually turn into Gurrisonic’s second album (yeah I said it!!!). Its name is Suite for Two Countries Movement IV. The Conquest. The Imaginary. It features the amazing singer Marja Lisa Kay interpreting texts by Mark Twain, and flutist Christine Tavolacci. I am trying new sounds and interactions between the players while figuring out more of the concerted possibilities of an ensemble such as Gurrisonic. The whole suite as of today has 6 movements but I am expanding it unto 9. Adding an overture and two more fragments with musicings of texts from Mexican writers Octavio Paz, Carlos fuentes, and Xavier Villaurrutia.

Ishuakara (Rebirth)

At the time I was writing this composition, I remember sitting in Plaza Santo Domingo in the city of Oaxaca, jonesing for the possibility of having the enchanting and uncanny voice of Areni Agbabian, as I had composed this piece with her voice in mind. My lovely partner April Guthrie, to whom I dedicated this song, asked Areni to come out and record the song, and sure enough she was as incredible as I thought she would be. Ishuakara was a difficult song to leave alone too. I don’t think I have re-written any other tune as much as I have this one. I am pleased to say that Ishuakara has been “carved out” to reveal its essence, and no more re-writes will be needed. Ishuakara, which means “rebirth” in the Zapoteco language, was truly that.


Caballo Viejo-studio

I met Dorian Wood through our collective Creative Underground Los Angeles and after a while, I found the confidence to ask him to play with Gurrisonic Orchestra. He expressed his interest in performing this traditional piece from Venezuelan composer Simón Díaz and I gave it the best shot I could. What can I say? Dorian brings it down!

The Finger (Alone)-studio

This other lullaby starts with an amazing piano solo by Daniel Szabo that makes me weep every time I listen to it. Karina Kallas creates such an intimate and profound sound, truly beautiful and perfect for this piece. I composed this music for Amaro, my baby boy; magical music for a magical little man.



I composed this piece for my favorite Oso, my son Nicolás. Oso features some ripping interventions from Daniel Weidlein on soprano sax, Rory Mazzella on bass clarinet, and more prominently Christine Tavolacci on flute, who carries the tune on her own for a large portion of the piece with brutally exposed moments. In particular, I am very fond of these duets and trios we played with big brothers Justo Almario, and Eric KM Clark, that happened right in the middle of it all, while the orchestra plays stabs and pads behind us. We were definitely channeling some Third Stream’s Gunther Schuller vibes with a tad of the AACM sound, for this one.


Gurrsionic’s debut album session pics

These are some images from our stellar recording session this past May. We recorded 60 minutes of orchestra effective music in record time. The members of Gurrisonic are, simply put, amazing and I am so proud to be associated with each and everyone. Gurrisonic loves The Bridge Studio in Glendale CA. Greg Curtis and his crew were the best team one could wish for. After more than 40 hours of editing and picking the right takes with session producer Valeria Palomino, we worked with Rich Breen for another 35 more hours mixing the album and making it a sonic bliss.


In Your Face

The title is “In Your Face” and I composed it for my baby boy Amaro.  I wrote this piece over the summer of 2013 for small ensemble originally. I then re-orchestratated the piece for Gurrisonic and am loving the results. There is some quite intensive lead playing on the part of the viola and Lauren Baba does an outstanding job with it.

Eric KM Clark sampled a text I wrote about what I think the phrase “In Your Face” means; we had a lot of fun having it start the whole piece in our live performances.


El Tiempo

This Eddika Organista original was at first, included in my quartet Jazztec’s first album. Eddika is a very special performer  and I was so honored to have her as a featured guest with Gurrisonic. Definitely one of my favorite tracks. By choice I don’t do a lot of Gurrisonic’s arrangements of other people’s music but this is a favorite of mine for sure.


The Finger (Alone)-live

The texts for this tune are from my brother, and brilliant person, Angel Gurria. I asked him to do something that portrayed injustice and people taking advantage of other people. The other requirement was that it had some onomatopeic property. Of course he got it and took it to another height. I decided to underscore his text with a more sublime vibe than an obvious angry one(my first choice). This piece is dedicated to my baby son Amaro Gurria. It starts with an amazing solo by piano monster Daniel Szabo. Karina Kallas sings so beautiful in this piece, and Dorian Wood weeves in and out  with the texts. Looking forward to extend this piece in the near future.


Caballo Viejo-live

The first time I met Dorian I was almost in desbelief of how good this guy was. Through Creative Underground Los Angeles we started working together and finally I had the nerve of asking him to play with Gurri Sonic. He expressed his interest in this traditional salsa piece from Venezuelan composer Simon Diaz.  What can I say Dorian brings it down!!!!


Constant Deprivation of Monetary Funds (The Beast)-live

This tune of mine features texts of my grandmother Esperanza Rodriguez de Cardenas, the invincible Dorian Wood, and music written by me. my grandma’s writing it sure is epic and that is why Dorian was so perfect for this piece. The initial inspiration for this piece was my introduction to Gyorgy Ligeti’s music from my former composition teacher Veronika Krausas.


The Tortoise and The Hare

This piece is an interpretation of a Camilo Gurria’s drawing especially made for this show. Amazing members of Gurri Sonic, Cellist April Guthrie, Clarinetist Phil O’Connor, and Brian Walsh, and Guitarist Alex Noice perform an amazing rendition of it.


I Live In California


Now You See Me

This piece is an interpretation of a Nicolas Gurria’s drawing especially made for this show. The incomparable pianist Daniel Szabo and the magnificent trumpet player Daniel Rosenboom perform an amazing rendition of it.


Dulce Tesoro

This piece was a bit of a mash up. The music was composed probably fifteen years ago while at Berklee College of Music, and I have been waiting to do something with it. In recent times, I ran into this book of poems by my late grandmother and decided that it was time to bring back to life that piece but underscoring one of my grandma’s poems. Once again, nobody could have delivered those texts better than my good friend and great artist-provocateur Dorian Wood.