Aruán Ortiz

Doris Duke Impact Award, 2014

New York, NY

Aruán Ortiz, whom DownBeat Magazine has called "one of the most versatile and exciting pianists of his generation,” hails from Santiago de Cuba. His compositions incorporate influences from classical music, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and improvisation. Garnering Latin Jazz Corner’s 2011 "Arranger of the Year, " he has received commissions from university orchestras, dance companies, and chamber groups including the Santiarican Blues Suite (Sunnyside, 2011), fusing Haitian and Cuban music, for Boston-based Jose Mateo Ballet Theater. He has worked with Esperanza Spalding, Nasheet Waits, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cindy Blackman-Santanam, Greg Osby, and Wallace Roney, among others. His live recording with the Aruán Oritiz and Michael Janisch Quintet, Banned in London (Whirlwind Recordings, 2012), was recently selected by Downbeat Magazine as one of the best albums of 2013. He also curates the ongoing Music & Architecture monthly concert series, which will feature Don Byron and Henry Grimes as part of Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival at Harlem Stage on May 7, 2014.

  • Photo Credit: Michael Weintrob
  • Aruán Ortiz performing “Gregorio's mood” (2013)
  • Aruán Ortiz- “Epilogue To the Blue People” (2012):
    “Epilogue To the Blue People” (2012)
  • Aruán Ortiz Quintet performing “Alameda” (2010)
  • “Orbiting” Orbiting (Fresh Sound Records, 2012)
  • Aruán Ortiz- “San Pascual Bailón," Santiarican Blues Suite (2010):
    “San Pascual Bailón," Santiarican Blues Suite (2010)
  • Photo Credit: Mariona Lloreta

Artistically, what do you do & why do you do it?

As a performer and composer, I use my music as a catalyst for creation and self-expression. Growing up in Santiago de Cuba, a rich cultural environment where folkloric music forms an integral part of daily life, I received classical music instruction. Later, in Europe and the US, as I was deeply inspired by orchestral music from the 20th century, I studied the work of contemporary classical and jazz composers, and collaborated with some of the most creative and forward-thinking musicians, composers, choreographers, historians, and visual artists.

They encouraged me to explore my Afro-Cuban musical roots and the socio-cultural impact of its musical syncretism in-depth. Since then, I have dedicated myself to the study and research of the diverse musical systems and rhythmic patterns orally transmitted from the African Diaspora communities of the New World, and its spectrum of unlimited sonic possibilities is a primary source for my work.

I strive to create bridges between cultures, expand consciousness, and push musical boundaries through classical, contemporary, and traditional musical forms. As I incorporate these genres into my compositions, my goal is to present them in new format accessible to a broad audiences.