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Don Byron / Aruan Ortiz: Random Dances And (A)tonalities

John Sharpe By

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The title Random Dances And (A)tonalities hints at the inclusive nature of this studio encounter between Cuban-born, New York-based pianist Aruán Ortiz and American clarinetist Don Byron. Ortiz's admiration for Byron's work caused him to seek out the reedman and led to this session that brings together their varied backgrounds. Between the two, they encompass early jazz, the liberated mainstream, avant-garde and classical realms. The resultant program contains three originals from the pianist, two from Byron, one jointly credited tune and four covers from across the spectrum.

Ortiz starts his own "Tete's Blues" with a sequence of interlocking rhythms that recall episodes from his outstanding Live In Zurich (Intakt, 2018), then slows to a stately pace for Byron's clarinet to coolly traverse the expressive theme statement. Then the clarinetist enjoys a fluid excursion effortlessly building from the written material, before the unaccompanied pianist's mix of hammered keystrokes, ripples and shimmering patterns create an exciting finale to a splendid opener. Ortiz also shines on his own "Arabesques Of A Geometrical Rose (Spring)" where he contrasts a clipped treble motif with deep bass, which continues through the cerebral unisons and darting lines of this piece.

Tracks where the two principals engage in open dialogue stand out. Byron's flinty "Joe Btfsplk" unfurls into dashing quicksilver interplay between his burnished tenor saxophone and Ortiz's piano before sharing a closing flourish. Geri Allen's "Dolphy's Dance" corkscrews from a boppish head into fragmented exchanges. Of the other covers, Duke Ellington's "Black And Tan Fantasy" receives a playful, blues-imbued treatment with Byron on tenor, while Catalan composer Frederic Mompou's "Musica Callada" is restrained and wistful.

Byron tackles Bach's beautiful Violin Partita No. 1 In B Minor largely alone on pure-toned clarinet, although Ortiz finally adds a spare chordal backing. The lilting melody of the clarinetist's "Delphian Nuptials" follows in a similar vein, with Ortiz's melodic underpinning turning rhapsodic. The jointly credited "Impressions On A Golden Theme" unites lyrical piano and undulating clarinet in abstract association before ending on an unresolved note.

In consort, Ortiz and Byron pay fulsome homage to their formative influences but, in covering so many bases, they tread a tightrope between focus and dilution.

Track Listing: Tete's Blues; Black And Tan Fantasy; Música Callada: Book 1, V. ([M.M.] crochet = 54); Joe Btfsplk; Numbers; Dolphy's Dance; Violin Partita No.1 In B Minor, BWV 1002, II. Double; Delphian Nuptials; Arabesques Of A Geometrical Rose; Impressions On A Golden Theme.

Personnel: Don Byron: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Aruán Ortiz: piano.

Title: Random Dances And (A)tonalities | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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