By Ana Gonzalez
“We often celebrate ignorance in our society, so I wanted to celebrate consciousness”- Bill Ortiz
This sense of societal consciousness is the prevailing characteristic of Winter In America, the newest EP from hip-hop trumpet player Bill Ortiz. From the very first track, Ortiz makes his view of the current conditions in America clear with his fresh cover of Gil Scott Heron’s 1974 track, “Winter In America.” Here, Ortiz sets the tone of the EP with the song’s easy flow, smooth production style, multi-layered groove, and free trumpet solos interspersed with lyrics about awareness and change. It is the amalgam of these musical characteristics that prevents the EP from becoming too bogged-down by the serious content of its language.
Overall, this EP can appeal to two different groups of hip-hop fans: the political and the groove-oriented. The tribute to Gil Scott Heron and the inclusion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words on “I Still Believe” call for some education on the part of the listener, but the EP is not inaccessible to those who are not learned in African-American literature and history. Ortiz brings his experience as Carlos Santana’s trumpet player to break up the lyrics of each song with trumpet lines that are, at once, subtle and disruptive, natural and produced, based in theory and based in soul.
The biggest critique I have of this EP is that there are really only three different songs on it. The radio edit of “Winter In America” and the “Montgomery Bus Remix” of “I Still Believe” are unnecessary, and could have been left out to make way for new tracks. That being said, the songs are so good in the first place that I would take a second listen.