Anthony Ortega is one of the finest bop reedmen of the second half of the 20th century, though he is better known in Europe than in the U.S. A highly original improviser with impeccable tone and great emotional range, Ortega's style blends bebop with forms and techniques that evolved later. He is currently active and has released "Afternoon In Paris," in 2007.
Coming out of the famed Los Angeles Central Avenue scene, Ortega was very much the peer of such sax men as Wardell Gray and Dexter Gordon. After a stint in the Army, he came back in ‘51 to join up with Lionel Hampton with whom he traveled to Europe where he would garner quite a reputation. He came back to the states in ’58 and played steadily though not in the limelight until his release in ’61 of “A Man And His Horn.” This was a great hard bop set where he was accompanied by pianist Hank Jones.
In 1966-67 two albums issued on Revelation, "New Dance" and "Permutations", established Anthony Ortega as a master of advanced Jazz improvisation. As critic Art Lange wrote: "In retrospect, it was this lyricism, plus his restraint and sense of contemplation—a sparce controlled manner of expression that sculptured new lines out of spontaneous alterations of tempos and dynamics—that set Ortega's playing apart. Unlike most improvisers, who embellish or ornament their material, Ortega was here stripping away the musical excess, replacing it with elastic, elliptical statements that reshaped and redefined the music from its emotional core."
Ortega remained on the Los Angeles jazz scene, and spent a lot of time in France throughout the ‘90’s. He released a steady flow of albums since the turn of the century which are; “Bonjour,” and “Scattered Clouds,” both in 2001, “On Evidence,” (2003) “Earth Dance,” (2004) and his latest “Afternoon In Paris,” from 2007.
Anthony Ortega’s credentials and legacy as a bop player are only bested by his longevity and endurance which are testament to his musicianship.
Source: James Nadal
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