Monday, April 09, 2018

Aruan Ortiz - Live in Zurich (Intakt Records, 2018)

Pianist Aruan Ortiz was in Zurich to record his solo piano album Cub(an)ism when he appeared at the November 2016 Unerhört! Festival. Hearing a truncated version of the concert on Swiss radio a short time later, the producers at Intakt Records were knocked out and immediately knew what Ortiz's next album would be. In the company of Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums and mbira they make for a mighty unit, opening with the improvised "Part 1 (Analytical Symmetry / Fractal Sketches)" with low bass tones droning across the soundscape of the stage, while the rhythm team gives Ortiz his lead to take the music in whatever direction he chooses. The music comes at a slow boil over the course of thirty-four minutes, with each musician exploring the breadth and depth of their particular instrument. The music is wide open to any possibility that they can imagine, without necessarily being free jazz. The thick bass and ever shifting drums meld with Ortiz for a thirty four minute exploration where he applies his earlier compositions such as “Fractal Sketches” and “Analytical Symmetry”, which were first heard on the studio album Hidden Voices, and they are taken up in a keen fashion pulling the audience along with them as they gradually start to realize that they are witnessing a special performance. The pace really picks up during the second half, "Part 2 (Bass improvisation / Etude #6 op 10 / Open or Close & The Sphinx)" where the interplay between the musicians becomes lightning fast and their improvisational acuity is really brought to the forefront. Ortiz leans in hard on the keys producing a propulsive and exciting sound that really drives the music forward, resulting in an interesting convergence of musical ideas and styles, which is part and parcel of the personal journey he has taken from Cuba to the United States and then around the world where he is recognized as a master pianist and improviser. The variety of musical and interpersonal interactions between Ortiz and the bassist and drummer is revealed by the nature of the performance and improvisation. They come together to wrap things up with "Alone Together," a composition that they can use to recap their approaches to tempo, volume and melody which they have been investigating throughout this concert. This was an excellent album of exploratory modern jazz, and Aruan Ortiz is a musician of boundless imagination whose co-conspirators make for a fine accompaniment and continually interesting music. Live in Zurich - amazon.com

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