"An avatar of creative and progressive improvisation," 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.
Between 2003 and 2015, Ortiz led or co-led excellent hardcore jazz albums such as “Alameda,” “Orbiting” and “Banned in London,” and spent several years playing piano and keyboards with Wallace Roney, with whom he recorded twice. Before arriving in New York in 2008, Aruán played with Esperanza Spalding on her debut album, "Junjo" (Ayva Música, 2006), and was lauded as "one of the most versatile and exciting pianists of his generation" by prestigious Downbeat Magazine.
In 2012, he composed and conducted “Santiarican Blues Suite”—a five-part score that references a wide timeline of Cuban, Afro-Haitian, and contemporary classical vocabulary—with a string quartet, two basses, two pianos, flute and percussion. This album received 4.5 stars from Downbeat Magazine, and Latin Jazz Network said, “This record by a very special artist will go down as one of the most significant works of music."
In 2013, he produced and curated several series of concerts featuring some of the most legendary, forward-thinking, and creative improvisers on the New York scene such as Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Henry Grimes, Sam Newsome, Rufus Reid, Francisco Mora-Catlett, Ralph Alessi, Don Byron, in explorations of the translation of non-musical patterns, symbols, and structures into concepts unusual to jazz improvisation and notated music. For example, about the Music & Architecture Concert Series (2013) the press stated, "the music evoked images of mathematical equations, great architectural works and brought to mind the New York loft scene of the 1970s, where free jazz reigned supreme" (Tomas Pena).
"Aruán Ortiz weaves multiple strands of tradition through his music, with an endgame of deep mystification. A pianist originally from Cuba, he has been a creative force at least since the release of his debut album 20 years ago. But he’s moving into a new tier with “Hidden Voices.” – Nate Chinen, NY Times.
This year he released a new critically acclaimed CD, “Hidden Voices”– called “a solid and unique new sound in today’s jazz world” (Matthew Fiander, PopMatters)– featuring Eric Revis on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums with Intakt Records, where his Afro-Cuban and jazz roots are implied, but not explicitly stated. “I have been writing tunes that flirt with atonal and serial music for quite a while, finding harmonic movements that might not be familiar to some ears, and adding some Cuban Cubism to the palette,” he says. This album has received 5 stars from Jazzism Magazine , and 4 stars from The Irish Times, Downbeat, and All About Jazz.
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).
Although Aruán tours predominantly with his own trio, he has also played, toured, or recorded with Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wadada Leo Smith, Don Byron, Greg Osby, Wallace Roney, Nicole Mitchell, Steve Turre, Cameron Brown, and Nasheet Waits, to name a few.