Aruan Ortiz quartet at Cornelia St Cafe - NYC, maY 14

  • photography by Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

The Cuban pianist, Aruan Ortiz, infiltrates himself in the tough avant-garde scene with purpose and distinction. 
Bringing a little slice of his roots (mostly perceptive through his thriving left-handed rhythms), Ortiz was visibly delighted to interact with two long time idols: the vertiginous Mark Helias on bass and the resourceful Tom Rainey on drums.
The band was complemented with the trendy saxophonist, Ingrid Laubrock, who has been teaming up with the drummer in many interesting projects. She was fundamental to establish the intensity of the ambiences whether through simple melodies or hyperkinetic phrases adorned with percussive popping sounds, honks, and exciting trills.

Andrew Hill’s ‘For Emilio’ was a brilliant start, featuring Ms. Laubrock’s outside escapades, which got prompt responses from Ortiz.
The latter assumed a special preponderance during the improvisational section of his own composition, the enigmatic ‘Analytical Symmetry’ (taken from the album ‘Hidden Voices’) whose interpretation gained the form of an African tribal dance. Besides that, the attentions were turned to the unstoppable groove created by Helias and Rainey.
Helias was the composer of the following tune, a sort of spiritual hymn. He created an inviting ostinato together with Ortiz while Rainey filled the air with discerning wind sweeps. Ms. Laubrock, focusing on challenging melodic counterpoints, was more restrained in this tune, only to return to her ravishing blows in the set’s last composition, which she wrote.

After a short break, the starred quartet opened with a deconstructed bebop-like tune, another stirring creation of Ms. Laubrock. 
The final pair of compositions was taken from the pianist’s album ‘Orbiting’. If the title tune showed a beautiful conjugation of sounds that might be trying to explain an episode by using call-response exchanges, ‘Numbers’ was a striking explosion of gravitational twirls, often interrupted by Ms. Laubrock’s invigorating flare-ups. Tom Rainey was magnificent, drawing smiles from Ortiz during the pleasurable interactive moments.

I was paralyzed by the verve of these four hyper-creative musicians who presented their own languages with one common goal in mind: making great music. And believe me! That happened!