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Fabian AlmazanNew York, NY
Pianist and composer Fabian Almazan, a native of Cuba now residing in New York City, found his musical roots as a child in his homeland of Havana where he first became involved in the classical piano tradition. When his parents could not afford to pay for private piano lessons, having fled Cuba in political exile to Miami, FL, pianist Conchita Betancourt was gracious enough to impart free lessons for over three years. Thanks to Mrs. Betancourt’s exceeding generosity, Fabian was able to audition for the New World School of the Arts High School in Miami, FL where he studied from 1998 to 2002.
In 2002 Fabian was selected for the National 2002 Grammy High School Jazz Combo and the following year, was selected for the newly up and running Brubeck Institute fellowship program based in northern California where he studied with Mark Levine and performed with Dave Brubeck and Christian McBride. In 2003, Fabian moved to New York City to study with Kenny Barron and Garry Dial at the Manhattan School of Music. During the completion of his bachelor’s degree, Almazan immersed himself in the realm of orchestral composition studying instrumentation and orchestration with Mr. Giampaolo Bracali. In the spring of 2009 Fabian Almazan received his master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music, selected as a recipient of the Michael W. Greene Scholarship, studying privately with Jason Moran.Awards and recognitions include the Cintas Foundation 2010/11 Brandon Fradd Award in Music Composition and the Sundance Composers’ Lab. Since 2007, Fabian has been the pianist for the Terence Blanchard Group and has toured North and South America, Asia and Europe extensively. Almazan has had the opportunity to share the stage with such artists as Gretchen Parlato, Paquito D’Rivera, Christian Scott, Chris Dingman, David Sanchez, Stefon Harris, Kendrick Scott and Ambrose Akinmusire among others.
On Rhizome, his second leader release, Fabian Almazan picks up where he left off on his acclaimed 2011 debut, Personalities. On that date, the pianist-composer, who had garnered international visibility for his work with Terence Blanchard since 2007, revealed a tonal personality imbued with, to quote jazz journalist Larry Blumenfeld, “a bracing blend of lyrical Modernism, modern-jazz improvisation and postmodern sonic disruption.” Joined by trio partners Linda Oh on bass and Henry Cole on drums, and twice bringing a string quartet into the mix, Almazan presented seven originals that included achingly poetic ballads as well as songs defined by the disjunctive rhythms and highbrow harmony of 21st century jazz, all animated by the leader’s virtuoso pianistics. Almazan also acknowledged his Cuban bloodline with an idiomatic rendering of the iconic danzon “Tres Lindas Cubanas,” a classically inflected solo reading of Carlos Varela’s romantic bolero “Bola De Nieve,” and a phantasmagoric, electronically modified treatment of Dmitry Shostakovich’s “String Quartet No. 10, Op. 118.”
“Fabian pushes the envelope in ways that excite people,” Blanchard said at the time. “He’s someone who takes all of his experiences around the world and in different forms of music, and uses them to create something special.”
“From day to day our lives are very different, we experience many things, and I try to embrace that diversity,” Almazan says of the eclectic melange of emotions and musical ideas that he navigated on Personalities. On the self-produced Rhizome, a collaborative venture with Blue Note and ArtistShare, he retains this sensibility of adventure, while sustaining “a more cohesive sound” with an A-list New York string quartet and the pellucid voice and strong guitar skills of Camila Meza, a Chilean who transplanted to New York in 2009. Whereas on Personalities Almazan manipulated preexisting audio recordings electronically into the flow of several pieces, musique concrete style, on Rhizome he weaves synthesized sound into the flow.
“The string quartet allows me to provide the listeners with specific emotional content that wouldn’t be possible without that instrumentation,” Almazan says. “For the most part, I tried to incorporate it into what we normally would do as a trio, without sacrificing any of our freedom. Improvisation isn’t standard practice in the string world, so I tried to ease the string players into improvising with pitch material, rhythmic material, and dynamics, so that they could react in the moment.
Almazan conceived the regenerative theme that connects Rhizome’s diverse raw materials during the days following December 14, 2012, when 20 children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He wrote most of the pieces in February at Manhattan’s Jazz Gallery; the ensemble recorded them over two days in March.
"A Rhizome, as I understand it, is the subterranean part of a plant that is able to survive from season to season despite the harsh conditions that exists above-ground; it provides the organism with the nourishment it needs to continue living,”- Fabian Almazan
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