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Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox

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Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox
When clarinetist and saxophonist Don Byron and pianist Aruán Ortiz teamed up for the recording of Random Dances And (A)Tonalities (Intakt Records, 2018) they brought an unprecedented wealth of stylistic experiences to the studio. The result was an unconventional duo sound that blurred the distinctions between their collective comfort zones. Byron and Ortiz return on the gorgeous Pastor's Paradox, sounding joined at the hip and untethered, simultaneously.

In this (mostly) quartet setting, Byron and Ortiz are joined by cellist Lester St. Louis and drummer Pheeroan AkLaff. A New York native, St. Louis (who goes by other names as well) is lightly recorded but has performed with the Dré Hočevar Trio, and Jaimie Branch's Fly or Die. As a composer, his works have been commissioned by a number of creative music ensembles. akLaff has recorded extensively with Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake and Anthony Braxton. On hand in specialized roles are cellist Yves Dhar and actor Mtume Gant, supplying spoken word on three tracks.

Pastor's Paradox was borne out of despair—on multiple levels. Having recorded and performed together pre-pandemic, Byron and Ortiz grappled with the new artistic seclusion while acknowledging that the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others were simultaneous facets of the moral and ethical bankruptcy facing the country. They agreed that there was no better compass to guide the ship, than the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he spoke to more than a quarter of a million people at the Lincoln Memorial. King's words, rendered in three tracks by Gant's readings, are anchor points for the collection.

"Autumn of Freedom" is the hardest-edged piece on Pastor's Paradox. The music, atonal and angry, juxtaposes with some of Dr. King's lesser-known lines from the "I Have A Dream" speech. Gant's interpretation of King imparts something of a hip-hop awareness that weaves through the pastor's sense of dramatic oratory. Gant returns on "The Dream that Wasn't Meant to be Ours" and "No Justice, No Peace Legacy!," each with a similar, stirring impact. The instrumental tracks—particularly, "From Montgomery to Memphis (To April 4th)"—display the absolutely unusual sound that Byron and Ortiz have nurtured. The two seem to flow in and out of the other's awareness, never in a vacuum.

Pastor's Paradox, with all music composed by Ortiz, fulfills the pianist's wish to take his writing further into social concepts without losing the music's spontaneity. His non-compliant style and Byron's classical background and superb technique make their pairing, and this album, exceptionally fine listening.

Track Listing

Autumn of Freedom; Pastor's Paradox; Turning the Other Cheek No More; The Dream That Wasn't Meant to be Ours; From Montgomery to Memphis (To April 4th); An Interval of Hope; No Justice, No Peace, Legacy!

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Yves Dhar: cello (3, 7); Mtume Gant: spoken word (1, 4, 6)

Album information

Title: Pastor's Paradox | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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