Gustavo Cortinas


Embracing a multicultural language, while investing in a variety of disciplines within the music itself, Mexican born, and Chicago based composer, bandleader, drummer and lyricist Gustavo Cortiñas continues to surpass himself in the breadth of his work. “Cortiñas’ music is uplifting, robust, melodic, and gets your body moving; it’s an exciting blend of the artist’s musical influences from jazz and Latin America, including his native Mexico” (DOWNBEAT). This can be heard on his four records as a leader, “Snapshot” (2013), “ESSE” (2017) “Desafío Candente” (2021), “Kind Regards / Saludos Afectuosos” (2022) and “Live in Chicago” (2024), “the culmination of a decades worth of music” (The Arts Fuse). “Cortiñas and band revel in a live setting. They not only demonstrate their intimate knowledge of the compositions, but express their evident joy at melding their musical skills with Cortiñas’s continuing commitment to encouraging social change through music.” Cortiñas gives life to music that attempts to build bridges and understanding in times of borders and ignorance; words that focus on our feet and the dust on which they walk, instead of the stars under which they dream. Through his participation in more than 30 discographic productions, “Cortiñas’s deft touch reaffirms his status as one of the great drummers in the City’s new guard.” (ChicagoReader).

A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans (BM Jazz, Minor in Philosophy), and Northwestern University (MM Jazz), Gustavo Cortiñas has developed a successful career in the US for over a decade, leading and accompanying ensembles in renowned stages and festivals in North America, South America, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. During his time in Chicago, Gustavo has become one of the most sought out drummers, performing and recording with Javier Red’s Imagery Converter, Matt Peterson, Kitt Lyles, Erik Skov, Emily Kuhn, Michael Hudson-Casanova, Chuchito Valdés Trio, Roy McGrath, Kyle Madsen, and the Carla Campopiano Trio, among other ensembles. Cortiñas is a member of the Chicago Jazz Composer’s Collective, performing regularly for their monthly residency at Chicago’s very own Green Mill. Gustavo Cortiñas is a proud endorser of Canopus Drums & Bosphorus Cymbals, and has been recipient of grants from the Mexican National Endowment of the Arts (FONCA), the Illinois Arts Council (IACA), the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and Pathways To Jazz. His album Desafío Candente, a sprawling meditation on Latin American life and struggles, earned a well-deserved spot in Jazziz Magazine’s list of the 2021’s Best Releases, and was listed among the Jazz Journalist’s Association Top Latin Jazz Albums of 2021, among other critical praise.

Born and raised in Mexico, son to a Uruguayan university professor and a Mexican elementary school teacher, Cortiñas grew up surrounded by books of all kinds, ranging from religion and philosophy, to history, economics and art. Music was just as diverse: be it through voice of Chavela Vargas, Wagner’s operas, the revolutionary cry of Rock en Español, or the soothing songs of Edith Piaf, music of all kinds was always there. At age 10, he fell in love with the drums, and was soon seduced by the syncopated and improvised beat of Jazz. This love inspired a journey far from home. First traveling to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, and later Chicago, the place he now calls home. This journey set the foundation for his work: Latin American folklore, classical music, and jazz; philosophy, religion and the Latin American cry for justice. These experiences and streams of inspiration forge the unique voice of an expansive artist who will continue to defy categorization in many years to come.

Cortiñas has relased four albums as a leader, in which he acts as drummer, composer, arranger, bandleader and producer. “Snapshot” (2013), “a Smörgåsbord of the moods and nuances that make up the human experience,” (Jazziz); “ESSE” (2017) “a fascinating musical realization, exploration, and distillation of the works of Hegel, Aristotle, Descartes, Plato, and other brilliant minds” (AllAboutJazz); and “Desafío Candente” (2021), “a musical palimpsest that carries the weight of the history of colonialism and neocolonialism of the entire southern part of the Americas” (LatinJazzNet). On his latest release, “Kind Regards / Saludos Afectuosos”, Cortiñas takes on the role of lyricist in a bilingual song set that focuses on building bridges of empathy and understanding, in times of border walls and ignorance. “Kind Regards triumphs both as a bearer of a message that can’t be heard enough and as purveyor sophisticated acoustic pop of arresting beauty” (LATINO MAGAZINE).

​Gustavo is extremely thankful of all the great musicians, mentors, and human beings he has been privileged enough to learn from along the way. Some that stand out are Gabriela Fouilloux, León Cortiñas, Andrés Cortiñas, Andrés Suárez, Agustín Yela, Anne-Marie Garas, Santiago Fortson, Rodrigo Jiménez, Hernán Hecht, Wayne Maureau, Johnny Vidacovich, John Mahoney, Tony Dagradi, Janna Saslaw, William Horne, Victor Goines and Willie Jones III.

Cortiñas is invested in giving this back and sharing what he has learned. He started as the drum set instructor at the Edron Academy in Mexico City in 2004. Since then, Gustavo has had an extensive private studio, and also taught master classes in Mexico, Puerto Rico, China, Ecuador, Argentina, and around the US. He has been teaching at Flatts & Sharpe Music Academy since 2014, and has been a guest artist with the jazz small ensembles at Northwestern University. From 2019-21 Cortiñas worked as a Jazz Director at the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory. Since 2018 Gustavo has been an assistant conductor of the jazz combos and jazz orchestras at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. IL and currently teaches drums at the prestigious Chicago High School for the Arts.