Atrás del Cosmos: Cold Drinks, Hot Dreams

April 2024

Atrás del Cosmos have been called Mexico’s first free jazz ensemble. Founded in 1975 by pianist Ana Ruiz, saxophonist Henry West, and percussionist Evry Mann, the trio soon became a central force in Mexico City’s creative arts community, mentoring a generation of improvisers, incorporating a revolving cast of artists into their immersive happenings, and sustaining a scene through their legendary weekly performances at El Galeón theater. The group’s celestial name stems from the reality of these daily activities: untold hours spent living and rehearsing in a residential building behind (‘atrás) the Cosmos cinema, honing their improvisatory alignment with the kind of everyday intensity that animated the Arkestra pad in Philadelphia or the Tapscott houses in Los Angeles. In 1977, Atrás invited Don Cherry to play and instruct on his organic approach to music and improvisation, leading to new levels of national recognition for the group. Despite their catalytic creative presence in Mexico City between 1977 and 1983, Atrás never broke through abroad—not least because they were rarely recorded and only released a single cassette before their disbandment.

Now issued on LP for the first time, the aforementioned cassette, Cold Drinks, Hot Dreams, is an exhilarating live recording documenting the core group plus double-bassist Claudio Enriquez performing in 1980—an expansive improvised journey marked by contrasting moments of explosive heat and cool hypnotic calm. Atrás skilfully lead the listener through this varied terrain, drawing seamlessly on their experiences of the New York loft scene, classical pianism, and the surrealistic theatrics of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Ruiz’s distinctive sound—recalling Cecil Taylor’s percussive touch, Mal Waldron’s blues minimalism, and Horace Tapscott’s meditative radiance, but remaining entirely her own—holds the session from first to last. Evry Mann’s broad palette of percussion adds a welcome element of surprise to the proceedings, enriching the music with a graceful balafon solo, sonorous hand drums, and bursts of high octane trap set playing. Henry West’s saxophone rides high throughout, weaving around the ensemble with a fierce elegance. Now finally available after forty years, the music of Átras del Cosmos will be sure to captivate spiritual jazz veterans and newcomers alike.