Tracing Back The Radiance is Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s third full-length release on Mexican Summer. This time around, he’s a long way from his more recent pop-oriented material, opting instead for gleaming, slow meditations. Cantu-Ledesma enters a spacious and reflective place which is more about the creation of an optimistic atmosphere and less about the pursuit of melodic development, although contrails of melody do emerge.
The album has a stellar cast of musicians: John Also Bennett, Marilu Donavan, Chuck Johnson, Gregg Kowalsky, Mary Lattimore, David Moore, Meara O’Reilly, Jonathan Sielaff, Roger Tellier Craig, and Christopher Tignor are all a part of its sculpted landscape, but the music never feels cluttered. Instead, it retains its open environment and friendly nature with an emphasis on texture and delicacy in movement. Space is paramount, even with the presence of vibraphone, processing, flute, pedal steel, synthesizer, piano, organ, and voice.
The album gestated for a year, and its smooth curves are a testament to its lengthy period of creation. Patience and meticulous study has paid off. Tracing Back The Radiance reshapes and loosens the meaning and possibilities of discourse, communication, and collaboration, enabling a more open, flexible, and dynamic approach. The multi-layered world of sound is as hopeful as a shaft of morning sunlight, young and open to change. From all corners of North America (significant in its symbolism), the ensemble link up, joining hands across the nation. All of its tones are equal, and each one forms a chain, with one leading and then another following, the next being promoted and then following its predecessor, creating both ladders and waterfalls.
What’s really astonishing is the album’s cohesiveness. All of the artists are on the same page, understanding the momentum to the point of telepathy, resulting in peaceful instrumentals. Suffused with lightness, floating like bubbles of air as they lessen the gap between earth and sky, and basking in the warmth of the sun, Tracing Back The Radiance is smooth sailing. In 2019, this kind of balm is sorely needed.