―――This time, I’d like to interview you mainly about classical elements in your music because I asked you about jazz elements in previous interview.
You said that you had been listened to a lot of Brahms, Ravel and Stravinsky records and influenced by them.
By the way, within each of them, would you tell me one of the most inspired work and its reason?
1) Cello Sonatas in E minor and F Major
2) Piano Intermezzos, specifically the A Major one.
When I was a student at Manhattan School Music, I was struggling financially so I began to work as an usher at the recital and concert halls of the Conservatory. I first heard both of these Brahms pieces while ushering at Manhattan School of Music and was particularly moved by the e minor cello sonata. I find Brahms’ music to be meticulously constructed and just plainly beautiful.
1) The piano suites “Miroirs” and “Le Tombeau de Couperin”. I enjoy the piano versions of this music but I love the orchestral versions.
2) The second movement of the Piano Concerto in G major.
As a teenager, I was on more classical piano path than jazz. I was learning Beethoven, Prokofiev, Chopin and Bach but then I had an accident when I was 15. I fell on my wrist and had to have surgery to repair torn ligaments. I spent approximately 6 months without able to play with my right hand so my teacher at the time suggested that I listen to the Ravel left hand piano concerto. I then went and bought an album of Ravel’s piano and orchestral works and was hooked from the first seconds of music that I heard. In addition to the left hand piano concerto in the album I purchased, there was also Ravel’s orchestral arrangements of his piano suites as well as the G Major piano concerto. This is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful music I have every heard.
1) All of the ballets but specifically Apollo.
―――Please tell me about the songwriting process of Fabian Almazan & Rhizome group compositions.
FA: At its core, I don’t think there is a specific approach that I take when it comes to composing for this ensemble that would differ from other bands write for. I guess the goal is to create organically flowing music with the uniqueness of it stemming from the fact that there is a string quartet present. My objective with the string quartet has been, for the most part, to be utilized in such a way that it doesn’t play an inferior role to the rhythm section; I don’t want the strings to be there just to provide a pad for the rest of the band to spring off of. I choose to write the lyrics in Spanish mostly because I believe that it is something meaningful that I want to offer to the community from which I come. It is my way of saying “thank you” to my heritage.
―――Are there any differences in songwriting approach between “Rhizome” and “Alcanza”?
FA: Rhizome was a collection of pieces. Alcanza is a proper suite, in which each movement is leading to the next without pause. It is a continuous hour of music and we perform it in that fashion during live performances.
―――I was surprised that St. Vincent was mentioned as your influence. What do you like about her music? I’d like to know your favorite her album.
FA: My favorite album out of all of the ones I have heard from St.Vincenf is “Strange Mercy.” The absolute clarity in the song writing is executed through a meticulous focus on the timbre of every element of the different sections of the songs. The synth patches, bass, pads and lines fit perfectly within the atmosphere of the music.
―――Please tell me the challenge unique to piano / bass duo which is different from piano solo and piano trio.
FA: A lot of the challenges to playing in a duo setting are similar to those of any other musical setting— the difference being that the music is a lot more exposed when its only two musicians providing it. Things like keeping a good pulse and giving the music a clear shape in density and dynamics become the responsibility of two people rather than 5 for example. As much of a challenge as that might seem like, it is also a wonderful opportunity for vulnerability and expression. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity.
―――With your partner Linda May Han Oh, what kind of performance can we expect?
FA: We’ll be performing duo renditions of some of our already recorded material, as well as a few new surprises. We’ll be playing primarily acoustic material but with some electric elements scattered throughout. I’m really excited about this tour.