Pianist Fabian Almazan may have initially been recognized for his prodigious skills as a member of Terence Blanchard's ensemble but his debut Personalities(Biophilia Records, 2011) unveiled not only the depth he possesses as a musician but also something Blanchard realized in many of his own recordingsAlmazan's forte as a composer. This should not come as a surprise since the young New York based rising star is involved not only in jazz but also filming scoring projects which included a Sundance Composers' Lab 2011 fellowship.
His sophomore release, Rhizome follows in the same intellectually stimulating vibe of its predecessor unveiling a fresh concept of jazz and chamber music with Cuban influences. Almazan's compositions are cerebral yet emotionally centered, incorporating his jazz trio (bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Henry Cole with string quartet and vocals. Yet one of the most stimulating selections is the cover of Wayne Shorter's "The Elders" from Weather Report's beloved yet infamous 1978 album Mr. Gone (Columbia) which at the time received an incredulous "one star" review by Down Beat.
There are insights into both Shorter's compositional brilliance and Almazan's astute arranging which captures the original's ethereal mood while giving it new life. In place of Jaco Pastorius' percussive bass slaps, handclaps are used to create the rhythmic dance-like procession as the strings and piano trade the haunting melody. The piece is sprinkled with intricate electronic colorssynths, bells, and other noises as the progression moves towards a stormy crescendo. Is this neoclassical electronic jazz or simply a fresh versioning of misunderstood music from a 1970s and 80s jazz super group? It makes no difference on this fascinating ride. Kudos to Fabian Almazan.
Fabian Almazan: piano, electronics, handclaps; Linda Oh: bass; Henry Cole: drums; Camila Meza: vocals; Sara Caswell: violin; Tomoko Omura: violin; Karen Waltuch: viola; Noah Hoffeld: cello.