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Aruán Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices

It would be easy for Aruán Ortiz to take the well-trodden Latin-jazz piano-trio path, and there are times on Hidden Voices when he goes there. It seems nearly defiant when he does though, as if the Cuban-born leader, working here with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Gerald Cleaver, wants listeners to know that he is well aware of his roots but has no intention of being confined to them. Ortiz is too restless a composer and improviser for that.

It’s telling that, of the non-original Ortiz tracks on Hidden Voices, one is a Thelonious Monk tune (“Skippy”) and the other a medley of two by Ornette Coleman (“Open or Close,” found on the eponymous 1979 Old and New Dreams album, and “The Sphinx”). Apropos, because those fellows are Ortiz’s most obvious and consistent reference points: the zigzagging, shape-shifting rhythms; the fractured harmonies; dynamic, helter-skelter U-turns. Ortiz enjoys leading the rhythm section down a road, only to see where they go when he pulls the rug out from under them. Invariably they’re up to the challenge, and just as adept at affecting deflections of their own.

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