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Aruan Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices

Dan McClenaghan By

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The jazz piano trio comes in a wide spectrum of approaches, from the traditional—Red Garland, Tommy Flanagan—to the way out there avant-garde, like Cecil Taylor. When the subject of "Cuban pianists" comes up, some of the first names that come to mind are probably those who work in a traditional vein: Chucho Valdes, perhaps, or maybe Gonzalo Rubalcaba, both of whom work the percolating beauty of Latin rhythms to the hilt.

Aruan Ortiz—Cuban-born and now New York-based (after a stint in Madrid) pianist—leans away from the traditional end of the spectrum, in both classic jazz terms and the Latin approach. On Hidden Voices he teams up with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Gerald Cleaver, who are well versed in the avant-garde. The resulting music says that Ortiz has found two excellent compadres.

There's no doubt that these are improvisation heavy workouts. Latin grooves bubble covertly, and Ornette Coleman ("Open & Close/The Sphinx") and Thelonious Monk ("Skippy") are brilliantly covered—though the brilliance is of a dark and brooding hue. Oritz penned seven of the ten tunes. Tracing a finger along the piano trio spectrum, you'd slide past the traditionalists, beyond the edgy-but-still traditional guys and into Andrew Hill territory. Hill, with a series of brilliant Blue Note Records releases in the sixties, earned a reputation as an uncompromising individualist, rooted in tradition, but with branches that reached out into the deep blue sky where few of his contemporaries followed.

Not that Ortiz and company sound like Hill. They break their own ground, constructing loose musical architectures that stop short of the sometimes chaotic ramblings of Cecil Taylor, even simulating something akin to holy church bells on the trio's collective composition, "Joyful Noises," before the trio flays into Monk's "Skippy" with a Thelonious-onian elasticity and zest.

Track Listing: Fractal Sketches; Open & Close/The Sphinx; Caribbean Vortex/Hidden Voices; Analytical Symmetry; Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose (Spring); Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose (Summer); 17 Moments of Liam's Moments; Joyful Noises; Skippy; Uno, Dos y Tres Que Paso Mas Chevere.

Personnel: Aruan Oritz: piano; Eric Revis: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Title: Hidden Voices | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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