Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz
' fifth release for the Swiss Intakt label sits midway between his solo Cub(an)ism
(2017) and dates by his Trio such as Live In Zurich
(2018). In spite of the title, while there is a greater rhythmic impulse than on the unaccompanied session, the interaction largely pulls back from the intoxicating momentum of the latter. The presence of veteran master drummer Andrew Cyrille
guarantees a certain degree of metrical adventure. But even with the addition of fellow percussionist Mauricio Herrera
, the overall conception maintains a reflective distance from the pianist's pulsing heartland.
Two predominantly vocal pieces bookend a program of ten original compositions, inspired by the music, literature and art of Ortiz' native land, and one cover. The opening "Lucero Mundo" comprises overlapping recitations of Ortiz' words meshed with percussion/drum accents, which gains density as further voices gradually join, while the closing "Para Ti Nengón" features the incantatory refrain of a popular song while the pianist's reverie suggests a wistful echo of Island life.
In fact the whole album evokes Ortiz' Cuban heritage albeit in an abstract form as a new music sensibility vies with his percussive imperative. In "Conversation with the Oaks" that sidelong gaze starts in the guise of a jagged fragmented riff goosed by chattering drums, which return in synch by the end of the cut. Between times, rolling bass register and insistent stabbing right hand and Cyrille's tuneful drums conduct a dialogue which on occasion recall early Cecil Taylor
Herrera isn't always as obvious in the mix as he is on "Marímbula's Mood" where he uses the titular kalimba-like instrument to establish a downbeat vamp over which Ortiz and Cyrille exchange ruminative gestures. Herrera and Cyrille set up a stuttering cadence on "Argelier's Disciple" which gives an undercurrent of restlessness to Ortiz's stately meditations, as if contemplating lively memories, before he succumbs to more blues-infused musings.
Other highlights include: a case of the deconstruction reconstructed in the disjointed bop phrasing of "Golden Voice (Changüi)," where the interplay hints but doesn't explicitly state the theme, before a surging joint line emerges in the finale, with Ortiz emulating Craig Taborn
in his interlocking patterns; and also the rumbling "Inside Rhythmic Falls Part II (Echoes)," where barely hidden exuberance comes freighted with a tinge of regret.
Ortiz succeeds in offering a absorbing and affecting portrait of his birthplace, but does so in a way which engages the mind even more than the body.
Lucero Mundo; Conversation with the Oaks; Marímbula's Mood; Golden Voice (Changüi); De Cantos y Ñáñigos; Inside Rhythmic Falls. Part I (Sacred Codes); Argelier's Disciple; Inside Rhythmic Falls. Part II (Echoes); El Ashé de la Palabra; Para ti Nengón.