Aruán Ortiz: Inside Rhythmic Falls

Aruán OrtizInside Rhythmic Falls (Intakt, 2020)

booklet_339.inddTo my suburban ears, the term “Cuban,” applied to music, means flamboyant costumes and screamy horns. But Cuban-born Aruán Ortiz’s Cub(an)ism (Intakt, 2017) was a solo piano album characterized by careful motion and stern, lingering chords. His aesthetic allows for surges of free jazz — I’ve seen them live — but Ortiz’s music is a lot about patience.

Same for Andrew Cyrille. His recent work on ECM has explored quiet spaces and the hovering flow of slow time. They make a fitting pair on Inside Rhythmic Falls, which is mostly a duo album with Cuban percussionist Mauricio Herrera joining occasionally.

Fitting, to the point where this sometimes sounds like a drums album that happens to have piano on it. Pensive tracks such as “Argelier’s Discipline” use Cyrille’s quiet taps as a narrative, with Ortiz adding color on piano.

Even the brisk, spattering “Conversation with the Oaks” has a cerebral side, providing plenty of space to savor Cyrille’s restrained backdrop, his watercolor dabs of snare.

Among the less abstract tracks, “Golden Voice” romps rhythmically, and the spacious “De Cantos y Ñáñigos” has the feel of a deconstructed ballad. “Inside Rhythmic Falls, Part I (Sacred Codes)” is a busy moment featuring Herrera, a forest of clacking behind Cyrille soloing on toms. It feels serious rather than celebratory; this is not made-for-TV Cubanism. It’s more like a a canvas for Cyrille’s soloing, and it’s about communication and culture, not excess.

The album starts with Ortiz’s poem “Lucero Mundo,” spoken by loose overlapping voices over quiet drums. The contrasting closer, “Para ti nengón,” backs Ortiz with rhythmic voices chanting a popular Cuban song. It’s a fittingly quiet coda, with Ortiz casually tossing around some jazzy licks and runs.

Binging ‘The Stone:’ Peter Evans, Nicole Mitchell, Aurán Ortiz

Early in November, for the first time in a few years, I was in New York with enough free time for some music. I didn’t intend to only see shows at The Stone, but it worked out that way.

I hadn’t been to The Stone since it moved. Originally a black-box venue on the lower east side, it’s struck up a partnership with The New School, an arts college up on West 13th Street, where The Stone now gets to occupy a comfortable streetside performance room. I got to see two shows there: Trumpeter Peter Evans with a chordless trio, and pianist Aurán Ortiz in trio demonstrating his Afro-Cubism concept.

The Stone also presents weekly or monthly shows at some ancillary venues. So on a Saturday night, I ventured deeper into Brooklyn than I’ve ever gone before, to Nostrand Avenue, for a chance to see Nicole Mitchell.

The usual Stone rules apply: No food or drink allowed inside, and no photography during the shows.

IMG_5753 peter evans stone

Peter Evans can do plenty with extended technique and sound experimentation, but he’s also adept in contexts closer to the jazz tradition, as with Mostly Other People Do the Killing. This set showed off both sides but leaned toward more traditionally “musical” sounds, using Evans’ compositions as a foundation and presenting lots of experimental twists (one piece focused heavily on air-through-the-horn sounds, for instance). Evans’ fast fast playing showed up quickly during the first piece — a flood of crystal-precision tones flowing over long unison tones from Alice Teyssier (flute) and Ryan Muncy (sax).

The three of them had performed together in a 50-person George Lewis concert where they apparently played the prankster role, moving through the mass of other musicians and generally causing trouble. Some of that attitude showed up here. One piece gave an unaccompanied solo to each player, and Muncy’s consisted of one long multi-tone wrested from the sax.

I wish I could remember more about the compositions themselves, but I remember it being a bright, easygoing set overall, with some challenging but pleasant assignments in the music. At times it felt like a casual chamber-music set, which I suppose was the theme of the concert in general.

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Source: Sound It Out NYC

Aruán Ortiz performed with Darius Jones (sax) and Ches Smith (drums) as the trio Firm Roots, presenting one long-form improvisation. Afro-Cubism, featured on his solo album Cub(an)ism (Intakt, 2017), comes across to me as a patient style of free playing, where pauses and quietude darken the dense, gnarled harmonies. I don’t mean to say it’s all slow — Ortiz does get into rapid, splashy playing. But he relishes the journey in getting there.

On a macro scale, the piece followed a fast-slow-fast progression — with plenty of deviations, of course, but the opening segment featured Jones in a forceful, declarative mode, favoring long herading tones, and the end built up to a more quick-handed intensity.

The Evans and Ortiz shows bookended my trip. In between there was Nicole Mitchell, and I’ll devote the next blog entry to that.