On an island known for its extensive array of virtuoso pianists, Cuban-born Aruan Ortiz
distinguishes himself from the pack by a transcendent approach to his instrument, and an encyclopedic knowledge of styles ranging from traditional Afro- Cuban and classical to bop. He's also a prolific composer. Having roared into New York City and taken it by storm in a variety of settings, he now holds down the piano chair for the visionary Afro Horn MX group, composed a collection of Afro-Haitian vocal and chamber music from his hometown of Santiago with the Urbana Camerata Ensemble, and he has recorded electronic music with Bob Gluck
With the release of Orbiting
, Ortiz has completely eschewed his Afro-Cuban roots and recorded a set of straight-ahead music with a quartet consisting of guitarist David Gilmore
, his Afro Horn comrade Rashaan Carter
on bass, and veteran drummer Eric McPherson
. Ortiz starts the set off with "Ginga Carioca," a piece whose ever-so subtle Afro-Brazilian accent places more emphasis on melody than rhythm. He then segues into the title tune, a take on Bill Evans' "Unless It's You." While Ortiz and Gilmore converse in a call-and response manner, Carter's lyrical subtlety perceptively anticipates Ortiz's every move. Another highlight of this date is a hyperactive riff on "KoKo" where Ortiz and company tear through this tune like it's their last living performance. Drummer McPherson takes a cue from the Max Roach playbook on the opening, as Gilmore displays the lightning virtuosity which distinguished his work with the M-BASE crew, with Ortiz matching Gilmore note for note on his frenetic accompaniment.
The group then takes a trip into harmolodic territory on "WRU," showcasing Gilmore's skills as one of the most visionary guitarists of his generation. The set closes with a melancholic return to Ortiz's home on a rendition of "Alone Together" by evoking a Havana rum-mill at 3 a.m. where the last customer is thinking of every reason not to go home to an empty flat.
, the erudite Ortiz has smashed every preconception of Latin pianists and his penchant for innovative expression succeeds in surpassing the output of his musical contemporaries.
Track Listing: Ginga Carioca; Orbiting; The Heir; KoKo; Numbers; WRU; Green City; Alone Together.
Personnel: Aruan Ortiz: piano; David Gilmore: guitar; Rashaan Carter: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.
Year Released: 2011
| Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent
| Style: Modern Jazz