Review: Aruán Ortiz & The Camerata Urbana Ensemble - Santiarican Blues Suite
Santiarican Blues Suite
|Artist:||Aruán Ortiz & The Camerata Urbana Ensemble|
|Album:||Santiarican Blues Suite|
|Date of Release:||2012/04/10|
|Country of Release:||US|
|Date of Review:||2012/05/23|
Santiarican Blues Suite
Aruán Ortiz & The Camerata Urbana Ensemble's Santiarican Blues Suite was released on 10th April on the Sunnyside Communications label. It is a suite in five parts originally scored by Ortiz for the original ballet Pagan Or Not for the José Mateo Ballet Theater's 25th anniversary.
First listening impressions are almost overwhelming. Such a perfect blend of Afro-Cuban/Haitian-Cuban traditional music and a modern classical idiom and setting is hard to imagine or describe. The emotional roller coaster ride that its themes present straight away grabs heart and soul and won't let go. For the aficionado of Afro-Cuban music and perhaps any true music lover, explanations are wholly superfluous, the music so eloquently speaks for itself, like all good music does. This monumental work that Santiarican Blues Suite is also immediately suggests Ortiz as a modern day, Afro-Cuban Debussy, Ravel, or Stravinsky, such is the power, elegance, beauty, emotional quality and general quality of this writing.
Although hitherto Ortiz has been better known as a jazz pianist and composer, Afro-Cuban music or at any rate its influences have never been too far from his music. And the combination of Afro-Cuban/Afro-Haitian music with contemporary classical music should by no means come as a great surprise from Ortiz as he initially studied classical music as a violist and pianist concurrently with Haitian-Cuban music, and hails from the very heart of Haitian-Cuban culture, Santiago de Cuba in the eastern former province of Oriente, being of Haitian descent himself.
In form, Santiarican Blues Suite is based around an African minuet form that originated from Haiti and became the standard musical form of Oriente, where it became known as tumba francesa. Each of the five movements of the suite presents a different Afro-Cuban style. Both figuratively and musically, Ortiz boldly draws a tangential line from West Africa through Haiti, Cuba and the Caribbean to New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta, linking the blues of the Caribbean Creole cultures with that of the Creole culture of the delta. The blues here is the true blues, that of a state of being, of profound sadness as well as joy, so do not look for the artificial constructs of the so-called twelve-bar blues or the blue note.
The story of both the ballet and the Santiarican Blues Suite covers the history of the arrival of the slaves to their emancipation, and the evolution of Afro-Cuban dance and music in Oriente. But the music more than adequately tells the story. This suite presents the Afro-Cuban musical traditions that have been so vastly influential in the evolution of popular music and Latin Jazz through a contemporary classical lens.
The performance by Ortiz and The Camerata Urbana Ensemble is flawless, exquisite and breath-taking and needs no further comment, except perhaps to mention the participation of master percussionist Mauricio Herrera, familiar from so many Afro-Cuban jazz recordings.
Aruán Ortiz is an extraordinary, very special musician. Santiarican Blues Suite is an equally extraordinary, very special work whose haunting beauty, power, elegance and brilliance stirs soul and heart equally, and whose meaning and significance must not, will not ever be forgotten. With this one work, Ortiz has already claimed his place as one of the most significant composers of our times.
This music is utterly mesmerising. Aruán Ortiz & The Camerata Urbana Ensemble's Santiarican Blues Suite is an absolute must listen and must have for any true music lover. I would probably even kill for this album!
1. Diaspora - 7:48
Aruán Ortiz - piano
Katya Mihailova - piano
Zoe Hillengas - flute
Francisco Salazar - violin
Luis Casals - violin
Machiko Ozawa - violin
Samuel Marchan - viola
Brian Sanders - cello
Pedro Giraudo - bass
Anthony Morris - bass
Mauricio Herrera - percussion
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