The music of Aruán Ortiz is often described with oblique references to concrete, physical and abstract conceptual geometry. Despite being performed in very small group configurations Mr. Ortiz has, however, imbued all of his work with epic structures. It is easy to discern why. Mr. Ortiz’s music is born of a very broad world-view deeply influenced by the visceral, yet cerebral work of the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians – particularly George E. Lewis and Muhal Richard Abrams. Melded in with his own Afro-Cuban background, one which shifted from a severely blockaded Cuba to New York, where, according to the pianist it met with “Institutionalised racism” where, to be accurate, it was “transformed”.
These performances Live In Zürich with his trio that includes Brad Jones on contrabass and Chad Taylor on drums and reveal Mr. Ortiz’s striking cathartic musical vision, in many respects one of post-industrial humanity in the throes of a musical topography that is heaving under the yoke of digitalism. Possessed of this situation and with his sharp insights into what it means to be a black musician in a world dominated by neo-liberal white American industrialists – in fact, because of this – his music, most poignantly exemplified by “Analytical Symmetry” and “Fractal Sketches” seems to conceive of unifying the emotional history of revolutionary Jazz combining it’s elemental pursuits of improvisation with radical structures in an intensely-felt revelation of the human condition.
That epic music is followed by music that takes further inspiration from the highly inventive proclivities of the historic avant-garde and the AACM sound palette that followed into experimental music that continually gate-crashes through the classical realm. The opening of Part Two wells up from deep bass melodies, developing the first half of a canon for the trio until, eventually, a bell-like figure from Mr. Ortiz’s piano, ushers in the emotional heart of the work: yearning, radical tonal writing frames momentous and hypnotic rhythmic propulsions or exceptional power that culminate in an explosive rendition of Ornette Coleman’s lightning-fast melody of “The Sphinx” which ends the gripping second set in this live performance.
The first two scorching works melts into a meditative version of Arthur Schwartz’s “Alone Together”, made profoundly beautiful by the most exquisite playing con arco by Brad Jones together with the slow gathering thunder of Chad Taylor’s mallets on the tom-toms. This is Aruán Ortiz at his finest with a bassist and drummer so completely attuned to his vision and artistry that it makes this album Live In Zürich one to absolutely die for.
Track list – Part One – 1: Analytical Symmetry; 2: Fractal Sketches. Part Two – 1: Bass Improvisation; 2: Etude #6 Op. 10; 3: Open or Close & The Sphinx; 4: Alone Together
Personnel – Aruán Ortiz: piano; Brad Jones: contrabass; Chad Taylor: drums and mbira
Released – 2018
Label – Intakt Records
Runtime – 1:01:23