The Making of a Masterpiece

Gumbi Ortíz and Electrik Rendezvous.
Gumbi Ortíz and Electrik Rendezvous.

I wonder at the number of people who dabble as musicians. Every other person I know plays at least one instrument. I sing, so I’ve experienced the rush of moving a crowd. And now, I’m watching my son enjoy learning the beauty of the piano. I believe in the power of music.

Yesterday, I got the chance to photograph a rehearsal for my friend Gumbi Ortíz[1] and his new band “The Electrik Rendezvous”. Gumbi is a world class percussionist from the Bronx. He still has the telltale accent. He’s irreverent and intense and I adore him. Keeping your hips still while he plays is nearly impossible, especially if you are Latina, like me. It’s in our blood.

Walking around in the small rehearsal space made me a captive audience. The limited square footage required that I stand right in the center of the musicians and their amps. I was getting every note from every angle. It was loud and funky and somewhere in all of the sound coming at me, they heard every nuance. I heard drums, congas, guitar, bass all working together to create a jazz fusion that made me want to salsa. But they heard missing riffs, crescendos, high hats that needed more volume, and lead-ins that should be cut shorter. It was fascinating to watch them make small changes, like the sound of a single snare in the drum line, and then hear the change in the texture of the rhythm.

Next time you hear a song on the radio (and hopefully, you have good speakers), listen carefully to every instrument. They aren’t there by accident. Somewhere, in a garage or a rehearsal studio, a group of people got together and created the texture that draws you to that song. It may be the drum line, as it often is for me or it may be the weep of the violins. But whatever it is, it was deliberately added the same way a painter brushes a highlight into his subject’s eye. It makes the masterpiece come alive for you. Spend a few moments appreciating the nuances in your favorite music, for that is where the craft is.


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