Aruan Ortiz (p), Abraham Burton, Antoine Roney (saxes), Peter Slavov (b), Eric McPherson (d)
Bar code: 8427328423366
Born in Santiago de Cuba, 1973, pianist, violist and composer Aruán Ortiz brings an intense musical career playing piano solo, and with musicians such as Tata Güines, Miguel "Angá" Díaz, brothers Antoine & Wallace Roney, Ignacio Berroa, Stephon Harris, George Garzone, Horacio El negro Hernández, Giovanni Hidalgo, Lionel Loueke, and Jane Bunnett among others.
He has played venues in Cuba, the United States, Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Jamaica, Malta and Morocco among others.
Touched by a variety of influences, from Andrew Hill and Red Garland to Chopin and Cuban legend Lili Martínez, Aruán's music transmits a fresh sound that brings together pure jazz and Afro-Cuban roots. From the first note he transmits a musical maturity, and conveys such energy and intimacy in his music that all who have heard him cannot remain indifferent.
After the previous attempt ("Aruán Ortiz Trio, Vol.1") which was recorded in 2004, "Alameda" marks his second album as leader.
"Mr. Ortiz, a young Cuban pianist with a modern jazz pedigree, leads a promising ensemble."
Nate Chinen -New York Times
"Pianist Aruán Ortiz was born in Cuba, but it would be misleading to call him a 'Cuban jazz musician.' He's a jazz musician, period. For Ortiz, composition and ensemble cohesion are more important than his own estimable virtuosity."
"In Aruán Ortiz's music there is an intelligent treatment of traditional motifs unified with an overwhelming jazz potential."
La Vanguardia, Spain
"Jazz fans applaud, and novices mark your calendars. Aruán Ortiz, critically acclaimed Cuban pianist is a 'must see'"
-The New York Post
"Along with practice, listening, and performing, young jazz musicians are tasked with another mandatory job, exploration. This is a multi-faceted duty that requires the artist to dig deeper into all aspects of their musicality. They need to explore the standard repertoire of their chosen field, learning the inner workings of everything from Autumn Leaves to Manteca. This exploration reaches far beyond the tune itself, extending into a study of iconic performances and an examination of the song through their own lens. The musicians need to explore the greater musical world, connecting with styles outside their specialty that may provide a new perspective. They may split their time to accomplish this goal, sharpening their skills by journeying through a vast array of musical influences. Their new insights into different stylistic elements naturally leads into an investigation of the connection points between these different worlds. As the artist begins to perform with a regular group of musicians, they explore the aspects of their musical personalities around them. They learn the strengths and weaknesses of their peers and they expose their own skills to the group. A natural give and take evolves that establishes the basic relationship for a collective investigation of a shared musical vision. The resultant lessons from these explorations shape the musicians artistic vision and define their future work. Once they reach this plateau, they only hit a milestone, not a point of completion, as they step into new explorations continuing their artistic development. Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz and his quartet explore a broad landscape of musical styles, performance techniques, and compositional strategies on Alameda, an inspired collection of diverse pieces. [...]"
-The Latin Jazz Corner (Album of the week, July 5, 2010)
"Wallace Roney's live album that bowed last spring is a good record for several reasons, first and foremost because of the trumpet player's dexterity on the brass horn. In our brief review of If Only For One Night, I didn't have room to say much about the contributions of his band, but it should be noted that Mr. Roney doesn't haul around a bunch of slouches with him when he performs live. For one, his keyboardist is one of the most creative and exciting musicians to come out of Cuba in recent years. In case you didn't catch it before in the Roney piece, his name is Aruán Ortiz.
Although a sensation in Cuban jazz since taking home the prize for Jamaica's Best Cuban Composition at the Symposium of Cuban Music in 1995, Aruán Ortiz didn't arrive on the American jazz scene until 2003. It didn't take long for him to find good work though, as his services were called upon by such luminaries as Greg Osby, Terri Lynne Carrington, Esperanza Spaulding, Stefon Harris, Rashied Ali, Lionel Loueke and of course, Roney. His attractiveness to such a diverse array of jazz bandleaders is a testament to his background and mastery of so many musical styles, such as classical, Middle Eastern, African, Asian and good ol' American bop as well as the music of his homeland. In 2004, he released a trio album via the Spanish Ayva Música label and a couple of years later recorded his next album Alameda, which has finally come out this past June 15 courtesy of Fresh Sound New Talent Records.
Ortiz augments his base trio of Peter Slavov (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums) with one or two saxophones for all but a couple of the eight tracks on Alameda. Abraham Burton makes it a quartet for the remaining six cuts and Wallace's brother Antoine Roney adds a second saxophone for three.
This group of seven originals and one adaptation of a Chopin etude reveal an artist well-versed in the intricacies of advanced jazz. His cagey compositions leverage his intimate knowledge of the way Cuban jazz integrates percussion and melody so well, but without ever explicitly aping Cuban jazz. Like Herbie Hancock, he coalesces classical styling seamlessly into jazz motifs, bolstering the elegiac quality of his music.
Alameda," the song, showcases his abilities as both a composer and performer rather well. Based on a knotty groove, he breaks it up with brief segues that act as short breaks between the more active parts. As meticulously constructed the melody is, he leaves it wide open enough to allow for unfettered improvisation, as both he and Burton negotiate the tricky harmonics of the song. McPherson and Slavov combine for a restless time signature that is hard to draw a bead on, but somehow works in perfect tandem with the melody.
And that tune is just for starters. Gregario's Mood" presents two moods, one excited and the other, somber and ruminative. The Chopin piece Etude No. 6, Op. 10" is underpinned by Caribbean percussive elements that bridges the gap between classical in jazz with elegant piano statements by Ortiz. Bird's Motif" is constructed around a loose, bebop theme that provides a fine vehicle for both Burton and Roney to exchange heated licks. Landscape Of A Dry Watermelon" tests the artificial boundaries of jazz with a staggered, almost hip-hop beat and Ortiz himself weaving swerving lines on a Fender Rhodes. Liz's Flower" is a doleful mood piece where Burton and Ortiz together delivering the long, mysterious chord progressions. Slow Motion" is another stellar example of how Ortiz deftly assimilates complex rhythmic patterns with subtle Latin flourishes and Andrew Hill-like melodic invention. The closer Green City" is highlighted by McPherson's cerebral drum improvisations, the roaming melody and the best exchanges between the two saxophonists of the album.
The richly talented Aruán Ortiz puts a lot of facets of his talents on display for Alameda, making it a divergent, probing and nicely performed set, and one of the best jazz records released so far this year. Aruán Ortiz should be on the watch list for a jazz pianist and composer poised to break into the top tier. Certainly, he has put out a top tier effort with this album."
Pico -All About Jazz (July, 2010)
"This recording from the Cuba-born pianist Aruan Ortiz was recorded about four years ago, but has been released only recently. Hopefully, this addition to his discography will make more Americans aware of his impressive ideas and technique, particularly the way he subtly reworks Chopins Etude No. 6, Op. 10 for a jazz trio with bassist Peter Slavov and drummer Eric McPherson. Ortizs own compositions are wide-ranging: Lizs Flower sounds like its built up from his own dark rumblings, while Landscape Of A Dry Watermelon features jittery, somewhat trip-hop rhythms. While saxophonist Antoine Roney is listed as featured on the cover, his most exciting contribution is a showdown with the equally tough saxophonist Abraham Burton on the discs final track, Green City."
Aaron Cohen -Down Beat (July, 2010)
"Aruan Ortiz wasn't yet Wallace Roney's pianist when he waxed this item four years before its current release; one wonders what Ortiz thinks of it now. No problem figuring out what Roney heard in him: a gift for melody (with a twist), a wide palette and an '80s-grounded aesthetic (though Ortiz is in his 30s). Ortiz downplays his Cuban roots; though he can knock out those bold, clean chords when he wants to, he prefers to come up with jumpy krazy-kat riffs, which he often follows up with an unexpectedly soft touch and a measured approach to improvisation.
The addition of Antoine Roney's high-tech tenor on three tracks to pair with the meatier, more inflected Abraham Burton on the same instrument comes off as gratuitous; all Ortiz really needs is rhythm kings Eric McPherson (drums) and Peter Slavov (bass), who crowd the low end with attractive subliminal layerings.
Ortiz's delicately Latinized and judiciously dissonant imagining of Chopin's "Etude No. 6 Op. 10" makes most distinctive use of his gifts. But it's funny to hear him crack up at himself at the end of the jostling jam "Landscape of a Dry Watermelon," which shocks the ears when he trips out with the album's only use of cool, resonant Fender Rhodes. "What a bad boy I am, wailing on that old thing," Ortiz seems to imply. He might want to think about being bad more often."
Greg Burk -Metaljazz.com
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