To call West Coast alto saxophonist Anthony Ortega a living legend is not a stretch by any means. Though not at all prolific as a recording artist, his credentials and history can fill many chapters. He honed a personal, vocal-like sound in his early days, sharing prominent tutor Lloyd Reese with the legendary Eric Dolphy. This recording, done in California (not Paris) harkens back to the LPs New Dance! and Permutations for the Revelation label that he produced in 1966, in duet with acoustic bassist Chuck Domanico. Kash Killion is his foil for most of this contemporary effort, and walks right with Ortega every step of the way. In his mid-'70s, Ortega's sound is fluid and elastic, painting broad brush strokes of sound that are slightly acidic, very extroverted, and chock-full of ideas. He's like the poor man's Lee Konitz or Jimmy Giuffre, just short of the tart sound of Jackie McLean. As a disciple of Charlie Parker -- most jazz alto saxophonists of his generation were -- Ortega tackles the well known "Now's the Time" -- solo -- and gets right to the heart of the melody. This is unlike how he approaches other selections with Killion, electing to tack on lengthy unrelated improvised discourses prior to addressing a melody. The loping "Ask Me Now" and flute-cello version of "I'll Remember April" utilize this concept, as well as his non sequitor-until-the-end solo version of "Blue Monk." A slightly overblown harmonic tone on his horn is clear on the solo pieces, but so is a slight humming sound, perhaps due to the fact that the audio was recorded on a video camera. There are two Ortega originals, including the bop blues "Jupiter" (with Killion,) the very melodic "Open Spaces" (solo), as well as easy swinging duo versions of the John Lewis penned title track and Marvin Hamlisch's show tune "One." Closing the disc is a previously unreleased historical take of Parker's "Ornithology" from 1966 with Domanico that fits in well with the recent recordings, and sounds excellent, as if it was done in recent times. Ah, digital remastering! It might be cliché to say that any $Anthony Ortega release is an event, but the Hat Hut group must be commended for attempting to keep his name, and distinctive sound, in the global marketplace.
Afternoon in Paris Review
by Michael G. Nastos