Ortiz is a percussive pianist, but in all that power Hidden Voices never loses a sense of nuance and discovery.
Aruán Ortiz is an impressive and innovative pianist-composer, and he shows his versatility on his new trio album, Hidden Voices. Ortiz plays with Eric Revis and Gerard Cleaver on the album, and the three together whip up all kinds of sounds. The album builds on the influences Ortiz heard growing up in Santiago de Cuba -- everything from pop music to folk music to even European classical music. You can hear the mesh of deep structures and wide-open improvisation on opener "Fractal Sketches". You can also hear Ortiz's jazz influences come through clearly. The trio plays both Thelonious Monk's "Skippy" and Ornette Coleman's "Open & Close/The Sphinx". In the trios grasp, both tunes sound remarkably fresh. The bass solo Revis starts "Open & Close/The Sphinx" with is excellent, and the band cracks "Skippy" wide open, playing all of Monk's modalities and eccentricities, but bringing their own off-kilter groove to it. The album can shift on a dime -- from the still solo piano of "Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose (Spring)" to the volatile, dark rhythms of "Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose (Summer)" -- without losing the thread. In Ortiz's hands, you never forget the piano is first and foremost a percussion instrument. But for all his power, and Revis and Cleaver add to the album's potent punch, Hidden Voices never loses a sense of nuance and discovery. This is a solid and unique new sound in today's jazz world.