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Cordoba (Brianna Tong / Eric Novak / Cam Cunningham / Zach Bain-Selbo / Khalyle Hagood / Zach Upton- (Amalgam)

Combining elements of neo-soul, jazz fusion and hip hop, the Cordoba genre-bending sextet from Chicago use their warm, slightly off-center grooves to present vocalist Brianna Tong's articulate lyrics that observe and reflect on the state of world, the band's arrangements extended on five songs with the Latin America-influenced Kaia String Quartet.

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product information:

Label: Amalgam
Catalog ID: AMA026
Squidco Product Code: 32189

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Live tracked at Jamdek by Doug Malone.


Brianna Tong-vocals

Eric Novak-vocals, saxophone, flute, oboe, bass clarinet

Cam Cunningham-guitar

Zach Bain-Selbo-keys

Khalyle Hagood-bass

Zach Upton-Davis-drums


Eli Namay-bass

Matt Riggen-trumpet

David Fletcher-trombone

Kaia String Quartet-strings

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Artist Biographies:

Brianna Tong is a Chicago-based vocalist and improviser. A former community organizer and librarian originally from Delware, she moved to Chicago to attend University of Chicago in 2011. She is a member of groups Cordoba, Je'raf, and Bussy Kween Power Trip.

-Squidco 11/16/2022

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"Eli Namay (He or They) is a Lebanese/Syrian Chicago and Pittsburgh based composer, writer, bassist, community organizer, and educator. His work focuses on affirming creativity as a fundamental human need, and illuminating the intertwined and always moving nature of human minds, musical traditions, and socioeconomic realities. This is accomplished through improvisation and experimental notation; a critical embrace of eclecticism; and writing and composition that is informed by scientific studies of acoustics, perception, political economy, and the brain.

Master classes include at DePaul University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Southern Illinois University. Performances include at venues, and with ensembles and artists such as Northwestern University, DePaul University, Chicago Symphony Center, Constellation, Experimental Sound Studio, Fonema Consort, Mocrep, Adiaphora Orchestra, Jessica Aszodi, Yeyha Khalil, Michael Ibraham (National Arab Orchestra), Ronnie Malley, Katherine Young, John McCowen, Phil Sudderberg and more. Eli has been a part of The Bridge - a transatlantic network for creative music and Homeroom Chicago's 10x10 (2015). Eli has a BA in music from Columbia college where he studied under Dennis Luxion, Chuck Webb, and Dan Anderson. He has also studied upright bass with Anton Hatwich and Greg Sarchet (Lyric Opera of Chicago), and classical music from the Levant with Ronnie Malley. Eli regularly curates comedy and improvised music shows with Gilded Records at Cafe Mustache, works with musicians associated with Amalgam Records, and performs with the hip-hop/avant-jazz group Jə'raf and American folk group Can I Get an Amen, amongst many other periodic formations.

As a community organizer, Eli has worked with the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America contributing to the development of their Socialist Night School program, coordinating political education for the 2019 Chicago teacher and staff strike solidarity campaign, and as a full time organizer with SOUL contributing to the campaign for Medicare for All on Chicago's South Side.

As a writer, Eli has contributed to Cacophony Magazine, Midwest Socialist, various Chicago DIY publications, as well as developed pamphlets for Chicago DSA and SOUL."

-Eli Namay Website (

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David Fletcher is a Chicago trombonist, a member of groups Cordobaand jə'raf.

-Discogs (

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track listing:

1. Outcry 04:52

2. Factory (feat AADISA) 05:42

3. Mutual Aid 01:13

4. Diluvian 04:45

5. Waters Rise 03:59

6. No Answers 01:27

7. Ghosts I 03:39

8. Ghosts II 05:11

9. Crimson 04:33

10. No Horizon 04:48

11. Out of the Loop 01:58
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"When The Sick Muse interviewed Chicago jazz-fusion sextet Cordoba in 2019, vocalist Brianna Tong talked about the ways improv-based music can be a megaphone for protest movements. "I don't think it's revolutionary, but I think it can deepen the things that are in the lyrics of those songs, and provide an outlet to feel more about the song," she said. "I think it is an important part of people's radicalization to actually feel about what the fuck is happening, and not just be like this is how it is, it sucks." Tong speaks from experience: she's been part of the People's Lobby and Reclaim Chicago, and was already engaged in organizing and activism when Cordoba began releasing music in 2016. You can feel the intensity she wants to communicate in the irascible clomp of "No Answer," from Cordoba's new Specter (Amalgam). And even when Tong's screams are so garbled that it's impossible to make out individual words, the outrage comes through-and the lyrics that are clear put the capitalist system squarely in her crosshairs ("Why do I have to pay for water . . . and a place to fucking live").

Cordoba went big for Specter, enlisting Chicago's Kaia String Quartet and other auxiliary musicians to enrich their ambitious sound. (In that same Sick Muse interview, guitarist Cam Cunningham said, "I want Cordoba to be a Wagnerian experience, without any of the racism.") But the core members of Cordoba-Tong, Cunningham, multi-instrumentalist Eric Novak, keyboardist Zach Bain-Selbo, bassist Khalyle Hagood, and drummer Zach Upton Davis-have also developed a synchronicity powerful enough that they can actualize most of their grand visions without any help at all. The velvety "Ghosts 1" could smooth-talk its way onto an R&B-heavy playlist made to woo a new flame, and if it can help love happen-or if any song on Specter can-then I'd consider that a positive revolution in this acutely painful year."-Ayethaw Tun, Chicago Reader.

"A genre-bending sextet from Chicago, Cordoba's music combines elements of neo-soul, jazz fusion, and hip hop. They have been compared to Hiatus Kaiyote, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Frank Zappa. With roots in Chicago's DIY scene, the group has become known for its smooth-shifting temporalities and vivid harmonic landscapes. Cordoba was invited to play this year's SXSW prior to its cancellation due to the pandemic dystopia. They have been profiled in the Chicago Tribune, and their 2018 release, Break the Locks Off Everything New, was one of the Chicago Reader's best Chicago albums of the 2010s.

The band's first full-length LP, Specter, was motivated by a deep-seated feeling that the fabric of society is quickly unravelling, and their songs react to issues like gentrification, police brutality, and escalating social unrest. They also reflect on feelings of isolation and anxiety that have only been amplified in this time of pandemic. The album is characterized by the band's typical off-kilter grooves, nuanced arrangements, and vocal versatility, this time incorporating performances from KAIA String Quartet and a cast of local jazz musicians. Specter will be released on October 30th."-Amalgam

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Song Based Music
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Large Ensembles
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
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