Following a string of acclaimed EPs, virtuoso experimental jazz pianist Aron Ottignon releases his debut full length album.(November 2017)
It is tempting to say that Aron Ottignon has come full circle. From Blue Note to Blue Note: the label, on which the New Zealander makes his arrival, was also home to jazz pianist Andrew Hill, one of his first teachers. The story goes back to his childhood, and to a family where music was no stranger: his grandmother a pianist in London's first silent-screen cinema before caressing the strings of a harp behind the eccentric Liberace; Aron's father played saxophone in Manfred Mann's quintet and, when accompanying visiting jazzmen playing concerts in Auckland, he used to invite them home to give advice to the young Aron. Andrew Hill was one of them; he met Aron when the prodigy was just ten.
Improvisation comes as second nature to Aron Ottignon. As far back as he can remember, when he returned home from school nothing interested him more than picking up some jazz and blues charts and reel off note after note, sitting at the family's grand piano for hours on end. That taste for freedom, associated with his academic tastes and a precocious appetite for composition, irrigates his music today just as much as his eclecticism and his cosmopolitan nature. The threads he continues to spin are anchored in his first project, Aronas, the group founded early in the new millennium after a concert by Australian jazz trio The Necks. On that night in Sydney, Aron Ottignon discovered that daringly ambitious modern music is possible when the audience is young and enthusiastic. That revelation triggered his vocation as a leader, and in 2005 Aron released the album Culture Tunnels, which laid down the bases for a form of jazz sustained by a powerful groove it has a rock edge with a bass and two drummers. "South Pacific Groove" was the phrase that Aron would use to define a form that also called for Polynesian rhythms.
Dividing his time from now on between Paris and Berlin, Aron Ottignon has been recording Team Aquatic these past two years in the company of producers Paul Seiji Dolby and Rodi Kirk.
As his first album under his own name, Team Aquatic takes up the tale exactly where Aronas left it, even to the point of having its eponymous title-track dedicated to the good times enjoyed by the group during its London years. Starfish, by the way, was composed during that period, with its 6/4 rhythms enacted on wooden drums from the South Pacific. So this musician's credo is marked by absolute cohesion, but also by the spirit of adventure: Rivers is nourished by Peruvian traditional music, while Waves and Ocean draw inspiration from a voyage to Reunion Island accompanied by kayamba rhythms. Sustained by heavy electronic claps, The Jungle was born the day before Aron went to Calais: at Christmas 2015 he arrived at the camp to assist refugees for a week. The eleven-title album and three bonus tracks fades to a close with the sublime ballad Rothesay Bay, named after the beach where his grandparents have always lived. He was born there, another circle complete.