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Aruán Ortiz: Cub(an)ism

Karl Ackermann By

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Hidden Voices (Intakt Records, 2016) brought Cuban born pianist and composer Aruán Ortiz some long-overdue recognition in the U.S. Cub(an)ism, Ortiz' tenth release, is a solo piano outing and his first such recording in the stand-alone format. Recorded in 2016 in Zürich, Switzerland, the album continues Ortiz' exploration of Cuban Cubism, his method of incorporating cubist principles of faceting and multiple perspectives with folkloric elements.

Cub(an)ism consists of ten original Ortiz compositions that blend Afro Cuban and Afro Haitian tradition with the influences of Spain, France, and the U.S., all locations in which Ortiz has lived. The allusion to cubism is not a generalized throw-away phrase, but very much part of Ortiz' creative process that can be heard and visualized in these pieces. The marriage of visual and musical composition has long been an element in Ortiz' thinking and one can hear this influence in most clearly in the solo setting.

The percussive, avant-garde opener, "Louverture Op. 1 (Château de Joux)," integrates at least three distinct themes amidst vacillating tempos and more than a hint of classical inspiration. "Cuban Cubism" is the embodiment of Ortiz' approach; a minimalist approach builds slowly then pulls back briefly. Over the course of almost eleven minutes, the piece flashes through varying backdrops, miniature melodies and abstractions. The native influences of rumba and yambu can be experienced on "Monochrome (Yubá)" as Ortiz plucks strings, accompanying himself through wavering rhythms.

Ortiz displays remarkable virtuosity across the variety of musical and non-musical disciplines that come into play on Cub(an)ism. He employs Indian mathematics as the framework of "Sacred Chronology," simple-to-complex repetitions on "Dominant Force" and quite lyricism with "Intervals (Closer to the Edge)." The meditative and unadorned "Coralaia" closes the album, with the reverence of sacred music. Ortiz in the solo setting is exceptionally intriguing and for all the theory and extended technique in play, the music is superbly listenable and refreshingly original.

Track Listing: Louverture Op. 1 (Château de Joux); Yambú; Cuban Cubism; Passages; Monochrome (Yubá); Density (Golden Circle); Dominant Force; Intervals (Closer to the Edge); Sacred Chronology; Coralaia.

Personnel: Aruán Ortiz: piano.

Title: Cub(an)ism | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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