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Byron, Don / Aruan Ortiz: Random Dances & (A)tonalities (Intakt)

Working together since 2014 in larger ensembles, NY reedist Don Byron and Cuban-born, US pianist Auran Ortiz find a modern yet lyrical heart in their duo collaboration on an album that includes original compositions and intimate renderings of pieces by Duke Ellington, Federico Mompou, Geri Allen, and J.S. Bach, a uniquely diverse and wonderfully embraceable release.

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product information:

UPC: 7640120193096

Label: Intakt
Catalog ID: INT309
Squidco Product Code: 26983

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2018
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Jewel Case
Recorded at Radio Studio Zurich, in Zurich, Switzerland, on December 7th and 8th, 2017, by Martin Pearson.


Don Byron-clarinet, saxophone

Aruan Ortiz-piano

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Artist Biographies:

"Donald Byron (born November 8, 1958) is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist. He primarily plays clarinet but has also played bass clarinet and saxophone in a variety of genres that includes free jazz and klezmer.

His mother was a pianist. His father worked as a mailman and played bass in calypso bands. Byron listened to Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis while growing up, but he was exposed to other styles through trips to the ballet and symphony orchestra. When he was a child, he had asthma, and a doctor recommended playing an instrument to improve his breathing. This was why he started playing clarinet. He grew up in the South Bronx among many Jewish neighbors who sparked an interest in klezmer. Other influences include Joe Henderson, Artie Shaw, Jimmy Hamilton, and Tony Scott. In he teens he took clarinet lessons from Joe Allard. George Russell was one of his teachers at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. At the school he was a member of Klezmer Conservatory Band led by Hankus Netsky. In the 1980s he moved to New York City where he played with avant-garde jazz musicians such as Hamiet Bluiett, Craig Harris, and David Murray.

Byron is a member of the Black Rock Coalition. In 2001, he performed "Bli Blip" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington which raised money for charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. He has recorded with Bill Frisell, Joe Henry, Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, and Allen Toussaint.

He has worked as a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver (2015), The University at Albany (2005-2009), and MIT (2007-2008), teaching composition, improvisation, music history, clarinet, and saxophone.

Byron is a practicing jazz historian, and some of his albums have been recreations (in spirit) of forgotten moments in the history of popular music. Examples are Plays the Music of Mickey Katz and Bug Music."

-Wikipedia (

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"Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based pianist, violist, and composer Aruán Ortiz has written music for jazz ensembles, orchestras, dance companies, chamber groups, and feature films. His work incorporates influences from contemporary classical music, Cuban-Haitian rhythms, and avant-garde improvisation; and consistently strives to break stylistic musical boundaries. He has been called "the latest Cuban wunderkind to arrive in the United States" by BET Jazz and "one of the most versatile and exciting pianists of his generation" by Downbeat Magazine.

He has received numerous accolades such as the Doris Duke Impact Award (2014); Composers Now Creative Residency Award at Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (2014); the Jerome Foundation Travel & Study Grant (2013); Latin Jazz Corner's Arranger of the Year (2011) for his contribution on the album, "El Cumbanchero" by flutist Mark Weinstein (Jazzheads, 2011); Fundación Autor, SGAE, and Generalitat de Catalunya Grant study grants (2002); Semifinalist, Jas Hennessy Piano Solo Competition, Montreux, Switzerland (2001); and Best Jazz Interpretation, Festival de Jazz in Vic, Spain (2000)."

-Aruan Ortiz Website (

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track listing:

1. Tete's Blues 6:38

2. Black and Tan Fantasy 5:38

3. Musica callada, Vol. 1: No. 5, Quarter Note = 54 6:54

4. Joe Btfsplk 5:45

5. Numbers 6:04

6. Dolphy's Dance 4:11

7. Violin Partita No. 1 in B Minor, BWV 1002: II. Double 2:43

8. Delphian Nuptials 4:35

9. Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose 7:11

10. Impressions on a Golden Theme 5:56
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Aruan Ortiz, who grew up in Santiago, Cuba, and has lived in the U. S. since 2002, is among the most creative pianists on jazz's landscape. As a boy he was performing Cuban popular music. His studies broadened to include jazz, first in Europe, and finally New York, where he now lives. In Don Byron, Ortiz has found an unparalleled clarinetist, whose classical training and exquisite technique anchor a career spanning an unusually broad range of music that nevertheless reflects a focused line of musical inquiry. Byron was born in The Bronx, into a musical family of Antiguan descent. Some of his work has involved highly refined repertory ensembles devoted to early jazz, gospel or klezmer music. Other works assert un-fettered new musical routes owing to no single style.

Random Dances and (A)tonalities reveals the imaginative leaps of two free-thinking minds. In both, we feel an implied swing, gentle yet with conviction, and shared values of erudition and compassion. We sense a clearly documented moment between two masterly musicians."-Intakt

"Two highly accomplished artists-one long-established, the other solidifying his legacy-are brought together on Random Dances And (A)Tonalities. This duo outing features clarinetist and saxophonist Don Byron and pianist Aruán Ortiz. The two gifted composers have been playing together, at Ortiz's initial request, since 2014 but in larger ensembles. In late 2017 Byron and Ortiz met in a studio in Zürich, Switzerland to record this eclectic set which plays to both artists' broad musical sensibilities.

One of the most wide-ranging reed players and composers in modern music, Byron has worked in rock, rap, klezmer and experimental music with the larger body of his projects rooted in jazz. He often produces albums with a central theme as he did with his first release, Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992) and his most recent Love, Peace, and Soul (Savoy, 2012) a gospel quintet tribute to Thomas A. Dorsey & Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Byron has a dozen previous releases as a leader and has appeared as a sideman on more than fifty others. Among the many top artists he's worked with are Hamiet Bluiett, Bobby Previte, Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Marilyn Crispell, Bill Frisell, Ralph Alessi and Uri Caine. His compositions have been recorded by the string quartet ETHEL, Bang on a Can and avant-garde pianist Lisa Moore.

Ortiz was playing piano, violin and viola before he was in his teens and served as director of his school's band as a teenager. Now a Brooklyn resident, he has documented his study of Cubism in his native Cuba on two previous Intakt label releases, Hidden Voices (2016) and Cub(an)ism (2017). Ortiz payed tribute to past Cuban composers Ignacio Cervantes and Antonio María Romeu on his solo recording Cuban Nocturne (Newvelle Records, 2017). His progressive post-bop-meets-free improvisation style is best seen in a project like Banned in London (Whirlwind Recordings, 2012) where he co-leads an all-star quintet with bassist Michael Janisch. Most recently he joined Craig Taborn, Sylvie Courvoisier, Kris Davis and other pianists on the excellent Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor (Tzadik, 2018).

Random Dances And (A)Tonalities presents Byron and Ortiz deeply involved in a succession of fascinating and sparkling interchanges. Ortiz wrote three of the ten pieces on the album, and Byron, another pair. "Tete's Dream" opens the album and was written for Ortiz's son. The pianist imposes varying degrees of force while Byron, on clarinet, searches in and around the flow of the piano. Now on tenor saxophone, Byron adds a touch of klezmer to Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy" giving the piece a fresh and stimulating renovation. "Música Callada: Book 1, V. ([M.M.] crochet = 54)" and Bach's "Violin Partita No.1 In B Minor, BWV 1002, II. Double" are the two classical compositions covered, the latter as a clarinet solo. Byron tips his cap to Ortiz's fascination with cubist abstraction on "Joe Btfsplk," based on the standard "Donna Lee." Both artists have a strong connection to Geri Allen; the late pianist/composer was an early inspiration for Ortiz and a colleague to Byron. Her "Dolphy's Dance," from original charts that Byron had in his possession, captures the intricacy and jubilant elasticity of Allen's tune. The concluding number, "Impressions On A Golden Theme," written by the duo, again leans into classical elements and is guided by Byron's upper register clarinet and Ortiz's accents, both light and dark.

Byron and Ortiz are a captivating combination, both open-minded virtuosos at home in multiple creative music genres as well as the spaces in-between. The stylistic reach of Random Dances And (A)Tonalities is extensive but there is a consistency linked not just to instrumentation, but also to the elegance and mystery present in the reading of each of the compositions here. Complexities aside, this is the kind of album that rewards repeated listening with its nuances and the clandestine beauty of these pieces."-Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Duo Recordings
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
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