The quixotic enthusiasm of Hatology Records' chief Werner X. Uehlinger for the idiosyncratic music of one- time Lionel Hampton sideman Anthony Ortega continues with this release of a series of solo performances and saxophone-bass duets recorded in 2002 and 2005. The link to Ortega's quiet classic in the sax-bass vein, New Dance (Hatology, 1966), is made explicit with the inclusion of a previously unreleased version of "Ornithology" from that session. Brighter and bouncier than the post-millennium material on the rest of the disc, the '66 Charlie Parker cover shows just how much Ortega owes to Birdand how little.
Ortega's stylistic tropes are well developed here. Some tracks open with a long, oblique, skirting around the tune ("Ask Me Now," "I'll Remember April"); elsewhere, Ortega honks a strident declamation of the theme ("Blue Monk," "Now's The Time"). Sometimes he does both in the same track. The spare instrumentation allows Ortega to be playful with the timekeeping, slowing down and then accelerating the tempo to expressive effect. His approach to soloing will recall other players, but is genuinely his: listen to the vertiginous up-and-down-the-scales patterns he creates on "Jupiter" for a sample of his broad array of influences (Parker, clearly, but also a number of earlier players of the Benny Carter hey day, with a nod to later approaches).
On paper, everything about Ortega suggests an artist who dwells somewhat obscurely in the interstices of accepted jazz categories and historical categories (swing, post bop, free,...). Never sure whether you're dealing with an acolyte of Carter, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman or Anthony Braxton, you're hard pressed to place Ortega on your mental jazz map: he risks falling through the cracks.
But the aural evidence on this record suggests just the opposite. "THIS is the way this composition"Blue Monk," "Now's The Time"should be heard," Ortega seems to be saying to us. "Listen!" And so we should.
Ask Me Now; Jupiter; Blue Monk; I'll Remember April; Now's The Time; Afternoon in Paris; One; Open Spaces;