The Roots of Pianist Fabian Almazan's "Rhizome" and The Tree That Worked

In my review piece in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, I discussed two new CDs by two brilliant musicians on the rise—trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and pianist Fabian Almazan. Each album involved a core small jazz ensemble augmented by a string quartet and other musicians as well as singers, and tethered to extra-musical ideas.

As I wrote:

These new recordings by Mr. Akinmusire, who is 31, and Mr. Almazan, 29, sound nothing alike. Neither artist adheres to standard notions of “jazz with strings,” which often involve little more than the sweetening and thickening of harmonies. If the two albums are emblematic of any trend, they reveal a generation of musicians with training in jazz, classical and other styles successfully chipping away at the walls between genres and cultures, or simply enjoying freedoms afforded by natural decay. Both CDs feature vocalists and original lyrics, integrated within mostly instrumental frameworks in ways that also suggest the erosion of the lines between sung songs and small-ensemble jazz compositions.

I’ll get to more specifics about Akinmusire in a later post. But here’s more on Almazan, who will celebrate the recent release of his CD, “Rhizome” (Blue Note/ArtistShare), at Manhattan’s Jazz Standard March 27-30. The music is compelling, suggestive of many things—here’s a link he sent to me with a filmed dance interpretation of some of this music.
Above is the new CD’s cover, which is meant to evoke both a rhizome—”the subterranean part of a plant that survives regardless of the conditions above ground, within a giant system in which what we see as separate is intricately connected,” Almazan explained—and the notion, also expressed in Almazan’s Spanish lyrics to his composition, “Espejos,” that “we are mirrors of each other, connected despite our differences.”
Here’s what Almazan wrote to me in an email about the album’s title: Continue reading “The Roots of Pianist Fabian Almazan's "Rhizome" and The Tree That Worked”

New Shoots Bring Fresh Blooms in Pianist Fabian Almazan's Career

The above video gives a compelling taste of the music on and story behind a terrific CD coming from pianist Fabian Almazan—Rhizome,” due March 18, through Blue Note/ArtistShare.
As I wrote about Almazan in a 2012 Wall Street Journal profile, “Much like the best of his contemporaries, Almazan revels in the space between musical styles, and between form and improvisation.” I called his previous CD, “Personalities,” “a bracing blend of lyrical Modernism, modern-jazz improvisation and postmodern sonic disruption.”
This new one sound like it furthers and refines that quest. Here, Almazan augments his fine working trio (bassist Linda Oh and drummer Henry Cole) with a string quartet (violinists Sara Caswell and Tomoko Omura, violist Karen Waltuch, and cellist Noah Hoffeld). He’d used that blend before, but never in such fully integrated and fleshed-out fashion. And this CD features vocals from Chilean singer/guitarist Camila Meza, whose presence and musicality is stirring.
The music sound like it has a story—a point of view—and it does. Continue reading “New Shoots Bring Fresh Blooms in Pianist Fabian Almazan's Career”