The Squid's Ear Magazine

Ortiz, Aruan (Ortiz / Byron / akLaff + St. Louis, Dhar, Gant): Pastor's Paradox (Clean Feed)

Reflecting on the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech "I Have a Dream", pianist Aruan Ortiz is influenced by King's concepts of form and structure, assembling an incredible quintet including Don Byron on reeds, Pheeroan akLaff on drums, Yves Dhar & Lester St. Lousi on cello and narration by Mtume Gant, for a 7-song cycle musically depicting the turbulence of the time.

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Aruan Ortiz-piano, voice, composition

Don Byron-Bb clarinet, Eb clarinet, Bass clarinet,voice

Pheeroan akLaff-drums, voice

Lester St. Louis-cello

Yves Dharamraj-cello

Mtume Gant-spoken word

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

UPC: 5609063006483

Label: Clean Feed
Catalog ID: CF648CD
Squidco Product Code: 34155

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: Portugal
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at the GB Juke Joint Recording Studios in New York City, New York, on February 15th, and April 8th, 2022, by Glen Forrest and Colin Mohnacs.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"60 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his signature "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The content, structure and power of King's words serve as a fundamental inspiration for Pastor's Paradox, the stirring new album by Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based pianist, composer and conceptualist Aruán Ortiz. Due October 20, 2023 on Clean Feed Records, the album features a stellar lineup of players including clarinetist Don Byron, cellists Lester St. Louis and Yves Dhar,drummer Pheeroan akLaff, and spoken word artist Mtume Gant.

Pastor's Paradox shares many of King's themes, including racial equality, but also reflects Ortiz's singular artistry. To write his enthralling suite, Ortiz studied King's Biblical and world history references, the speech's construction, and the pacing and vocal dynamics that give King's words such power and momentum. "'I Have a Dream' is one of the masterpieces in the history of speeches," says Ortiz. "I studied that speech from different angles, particularly his use of analogies and how he integrated different aspects of literature into his message. It's amazing when you analyze its structure." In addition to studying the structure, analogies and literary references of the "I Have a Dream" speech, Ortiz delved into King's 1968 speech "The Drum Major Instinct," delivered five years after the March on Washington and two months before King's assassination, as his pursuit of racial socio-economic justice became more radical and he spoke out against the Vietnam War.

The new album comes as Ortiz celebrates his 50th birthday year, and just seven months after the release of his acclaimed Serranías: Sketchbook for Piano Trio on Intakt Records. With bassist Brad Jones and drummer John Betsch, Ortiz mined influences from his native Cuba including toques, rumba and Afro-Haitian music, commingling them with modern jazz and European art music. In a four-star review in All About Jazz, Dan McClenaghan writes, "the pianistic Picasso paints with an array of colors that runs from dark blues to light greys, stirring up turbulence and ominous atmosphere...shafts of light beaming through...the Ortiz edginess."

That edginess, always emerging from deep wells of intellect and humanity, is also present on Pastor's Paradox, the conception of which was also fueled by King's complexity and the turbulence of his times. "He was very revolutionary for his time," says Ortiz, "fighting for not only racial equality for Black America but also for women's rights and Latino rights oftentimes against a very turbulent backdrop." Says John Murph in the liner notes, "Throughout Pastor's Paradox, the band depicts the turbulence and cacophonous sounds of police brutality, loud sirens, and searing cries and wails of the 1960's civil rights movement."

The recording opens with the tumultuous "Autumn of Freedom," anchored in riveting power by Gant's imposing fragments of the "I Have a Dream" speech. The title track follows, dominated by Byron's silky, roaming bass clarinet navigating above the band's penetrating accompaniment. The foreboding cello opening of "Turning the Cheek No More" leads into a piece that Murph says "superbly evokes the violence many civil rights marchers encountered and the simmering doubt of the nonviolence stance of those who had been brutalized, or worse, lost loved ones in the struggle."

"The Dream That Wasn't Meant to Be Ours" brings Gant's voice back for a potent exploration of the interaction between ego and the desire to do good. Ortiz's fluid, expressive piano guides "From Montgomery to Memphis," a harrowing depiction of the dangerous treks of civil rights marchers along Southern roads. "An Interval of Hope" begins with tentative cymbals and drumbeats, echoing the challenge and necessity of hope in the face of tragedy and injustice. "No Justice No Peace, Legacy!" closes the album with a definitive musical climax conveyed through band members' instruments as well as their voices exclaiming the words of the track's title a rhythmically and emotionally complex combination of exultation, weariness and absolute determination.

Pastor's Paradox began with a single composition commissioned by a 2020 Jazz Coalition Grant, the year mass protest broke out after the murder of George Floyd, a killing which followed a series of other high-profile slayings of unarmed Black Americans. As the nation reckoned, and continues to reckon, with systemic racismand violence decades after the historic March on Washington, King's evolving and enduring words and legacy became the fitting focal point for Ortiz's project, which grew into a five-part suite with support from the South Arts Foundation, premiering in Dallas in 2021 with Byron, St. Louis and akLaff. Ortiz expanded the suite into aseven-song cycle for the album, adding cellist Dhar and spoken word artist Gant.

With Pastor's Paradox, Ortiz has created a 21st-century chamber jazz work that brilliantly and seamlessly connects the past, present and future, honoring Dr. King's astonishing gifts of oratory and the contributions and sacrifices made by him and scores of other civil rights advocates. Magnificently crafted, it's a searing work ofart and yet another important addition to Ortiz's growing oeuvre.

Pianist, violist, and composer Aruán Ortiz - born in Santiago de Cuba, and a resident of Brooklyn - is an active figure in the progressive jazz and avant-garde scene. Named "one of the most creative and original composers in the world" (Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge), he has written music for jazz ensembles, orchestras, dance companies, chamber groups, and feature films, incorporating influences from contemporary classical music, Cuban Haitian rhythms, and avant-garde improvisation. In his work, Ortiz consistently strives to break stylistic musical boundaries. Ortiz has played, toured, or recorded with jazz luminaries such as Wadada Leo Smith, Don Byron, Greg Osby, Wallace Roney, Nicole Mitchell, Cameron Brown, Michael Formanek, William Parker, Adam Rudolph, Andrew Cyrille, Henry Grimes, Marshall Allen, Hamiet Bluiett, Oliver Lake, Rufus Reid, Graham Haynes, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Nasheet Waits. He has also collaborated with choreographers José Mateo, Danis Mora, and Milena Zullo; filmmakers Ben Chace, Mariona Lloreta, and Mónica Rovira; poet Abiodun Oyewole from The Last Poets; writer/poet/filmmaker Mtume Gant; DJ Logic and Val Jeanty Inc.; and renowned German writers Angelika Hentschel and Anna Breitenbach. A Doris Duke Impact Award winner, Ortiz also performed on esperanza spalding's trio debut album. Ortiz's work consolidates intense research and development on specific themes related to architectural patterns and information drawn from non-musical contexts. Inspired by Afro-Haitian traditions and how those traditions can be expressed through multiple genres, Aruán's music channels his sound through avant-garde and progressive jazz, serial music, and contemporary classical language, focusing on decentralized roles and multiple themes and interacting collectively in ways similar to a string quartet. With more than a dozen albums as a leader and several more as a sideman, Ortiz has built an acclaimed body of work that continues to expand, evolve and embrace his adventurous artistic spirit."-Clean Feed

Artist Biographies

"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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"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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"Pheeroan akLaff was born in Detroit, Michigan January 27, 1955, and named Paul, by his parents in honor of Paul Robeson one of their favorite musicians. Though his parents did not play instruments they enjoyed dancing with the Lunceford, Basie, Eckstein, and Ellington bands. His mother, distantly related to Wings Over Jordan choir director Glenn T. Settlle, was a fan of classical repertoire. His father is a Jazz fan and audiophile. This spawned a musical household in which all seven children had music lessons at some stage of their development. Eric, the eldest became a concert pianist and choir conductor.

Largely an autodidact, with some years at Eastern Michigan University, Pheeroan studied privately with Randall Hicks (New Jersey Symphony Orchestra), and "Pistol" Allen (Motown). Working in ensembles led by arranger Travis Biggs, at EMU brought about his first recording date; a 45rpm for local R&B singer Major Lasky titled Remember Me Always (1973), a favorite of radio station WGPR.

In 1975 he relocated to New Haven Connecticut, and while auditing the African Art class of Robert Ferris Thompson, akLaff established a connection with Rashied Ali, drummer of John Coltrane's late ensembles. While kindlling the band DejaVu with his peers, he also initiated a tenure with Wadada Leo Smith,introducing him to performances and recordings with Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Henry Threadgill, Sonny Sharrock, Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor, Yamashita Yosuke, Amiri Baraka, Liu Sola, Tom Pierson, and Anthony Braxton, among many internationally acclaimed composers.

As a young artist Pheeroan akLaff toured several countries of Africa, Asia and Europe. He produced a wave of Funk and Reggae influenced performances and recordings in the 1980's. after his Urban West African music immersion in Abidjan, Cote D"Ivoire with the Marie Rose Guiraud dance troupe. He met Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Sonny Okosun, and Steve Rhodes with scholar Dr. Frank T. Fairfax III, in Lagos Nigeria. He performed for the U.S. State Department with Oliver Lake and Jump Up; in Malawi, Swaziland, Cote D'Ivoire Togo and Liberia, and with Jay Hoggard; in Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Sudan, Egypt and India.

In the 1990's he presented his music ensembles at the Willisau festival of Switzerland, the Sju festival of the Netherlands, the Montsalvat festival of Australia, the Moers, and the Nurnberg festivals of Germany. He also led the Double Duo ensemble with two saxophonists; Mixashawn and Ravi Coltrane, and with two drummers; akLaff and his mentor Rashied Ali.

Pheeroan akLaff believes that the arts are a way to give thanks, and to work for change. His non-profit organization Seed Artists encorages education, mentorship and enlightenment through selective arts presentations. With Creative Director Chris Napierala he has recently presented music festivals and symposiums at William Patterson University, and Montclair State University, childrens writing workshops and community concerts at The Montclair Public Library, and community concerts at local galleries. In 2016- 2017 he will serve as curator at Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in Queens, NY.

Since 1991. Mr.akLaff has taught drums and creative music to University students at New School University in New York, and at Wesleyan University in Connecticut."

-Pheeroan akLaff Website (

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"Lester St. Louis is a New York City born and based Multi-instrumentalist, composer and curator. Lester has worked in, performed and created in artistic environments in The United States, Canada, South America, Europe and China with groups and artists such as Dré Hočevar Trio, Jaimie Branch Fly or Die, Ensemble Adapter, TAK Ensemble and many more. As a composer, Lester has been commissioned by artists such as the JACK Quartet, Mahan Esfahani and Stefan Jackiw, RAGE THORMBONES, Lauren Cauley and others. In the near future Lester will be continuing to develop groups such as MADD (with Dré Hočevar and Leafar) as well as TRANSFER (with Jordan Balaber, Daniel Brew and Rocío Bolaños) along with many new ventures."

-Contemporary Insights (

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"Yves Dhar plays the cello. He has played it in famous places (Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, NYC FASHION WEEK, United Nations, Rikers Island) and not-so-famous places (schools for special needs, children's hospitals, youth sports clubs, retirement homes, designer boutiques). He has shared the stage with many celebrated artists (Itzhak Perlman, Christina Aguilera, Arijit Singh, Bert from Sesame Street).

If you haven't seen him in concert halls, you might have heard him in films, TV, or ads (Annie; Allure; HBO's The Plot Against America; Budweiser, Disney, VISA, Micoli Studio). He teaches cello, social advocacy, and arts entrepreneurship at Vassar College, in masterclasses around the world, and privately online. Perhaps, most importantly, Dhar co-founded nonprofits (Cello Makes Everything Better, New Docta) to inspire others with music and make the world a better place."

-Yves Dhar Website (

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"Born in New York City to parents from the Lower East Side and Seattle, Washington, respectively, Mtume Gant has held many different titles-actor, emcee, director, filmmaker, music producer, and educator-in his life as an artist. A graduate of the prestigious LaGuardia High School and the acting program at Purchase College, he has worked heavily on stage, screen, and TV, most notably as a cast member of the HBO show Oz. But if you ask him where he's honed his craft, Gant will tell you that his greatest teacher has been the blocks of New York City, where he found his voice as an artist.

After moving to Los Angeles in an attempt to further his career within the Hollywood superstructure, Gant chose to break off and seek his own path, taking a break from the commercial world of acting. As the son of a jazz musician (he is named after virtuoso musician James Mtume), he decided to venture into his second passion, hip hop music. He quickly became a mainstay within NY's underground hip hop community, releasing three albums in four years: Nat Turner Reloaded (2006; Rap Top 10 Albums of the year), Ronin (2008), and The Ecology (2010). He also made marks as a producer, doing cuts for Stones Throw artist Homeboy Sandman with the song "Airwave Airraid" (featured on Peter Rosenberg's show on Hot 97), Masai Bey, Bisco Smith, Creature, and many others. Gant's versatility ultimately led him to the hip hop/jazz fusion movement, working with virtuoso composer Dana Leong and the Spanish Marc Ayza Group. With these opportunities, Gant found himself on stages around the world, in such countries as China, Finland, Italy, and France, and at such festivals as Sweden's Umea Jazz Festival and Brazil's Savasi Festival, sharing bills and stages with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, and DJ Spooky.

But always the dramatist at heart, Gant remade a commitment to working once again in the world of theatre and film. In 2012, he premiered his first play as writer in the co-authored (and co-starred) production Fields of Grey with acclaimed UK writer/performer Avaes Muhammed at the Contact Theatre in Manchester, England. Directed by former Contact Theatre artistic director Baba Israel, Fields of Grey was well-received, putting Gant on the path toward filmmaking. He made his directorial debut on short film vignette for singer/songwriter Conchita Campos's song "Easy My Mind." Months later, he started production on his first film, Spit, which was screened at nearly two dozen film festivals, earning about a dozen award nominations and even winning a few, such as Best Short Film at the 2016 Coney Island Film Festival. He is touring his second short film, White Face, around the film festival circuit, furthering his reputation as an artist with a radical voice about today's issues around race, identity, and class in America. He is also currently in development for his first feature film, I Don't Live Today, anticipated to go into production in Spring 2018."

-Purchase College (

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Track Listing:

1. Autumn Of Freedom 4:26

2. Pastor's Paradox 3:32

3. Turning The Other Cheek No More 6:47

4. The Dream That Wasn't Meant To Be Ours 10:14

5. From Montgomery To Memphis (To April 4th) 6:04

6. An Interval Of Hope 1:29

7. No Justice, No Peace, Legacy! 6:49

Related Categories of Interest:

Clean Feed
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Chamber Jazz
Quintet Recordings
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Spoken Word
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New in Improvised Music

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