Pianist and composer Fabian Almazan is a native of Cuba and now resides in New York City. From 1998 to 2002, he studied at the New World School of the Arts High School in Miami, FL. In 2003, Fabian moved to New York City to study at the Manhattan School of Music. He has played with such musicians as Paquito D’Rivera, Christian Scott, Chris Dingman, David Sanchez, Stefon Harris, Kendrick Scott and Ambrose Akinmusire, among others.
Interview with FABIAN ALMAZAN:
In an interview with Jazz Speaks you stated that you feel “the human voice is the source of all music”.
I should start off by saying that by no means am I implying that any of my responses are definitive or “correct.” Everyone is entitled to his/her aesthetic perceptions and interpretations. What I answer is simply one person’s observations.
Our ability as mammals to be able to produce sound with our own bodies, using our voice as an innate tool/instrument, seems to me like a natural invitation to any organism through evolution to explore how to communicate in an introspective and social manner through sound. So, in my opinion, music made by humans originated with the voice, closely followed by percussion and percussion instruments. The first thing we do when we are born is wail with our voice. Music is the maturity of that first cry of a baby, in my opinion.
Why does this matter to you and how does this belief impact your playing and composing?
Ideally, it doesn’t matter to me. Music is too abstract to impose levels of priorities onto it. I’m just there to help it along.
How, if at all, does your being Cuban limit people’s expectations of your art? Do you feel a responsibility to incorporate or address certain issues in your art? And if so do you ever succumb to that feeling of responsibility?
I don’t feel any responsibility to incorporate or address specific issues in my art. It just makes me happier when I feel like I’m being honest with myself by not trying to please anyone—only pleasing the music itself and me. I feel like I have always benefited the most from people that seem to embrace whatever it is that makes them who they are. I learn the most from those people because it provides me with proof that one can be happiest when in line with him/herself. Why pretend to be someone else?
It’s hard to answer if being Cuban limits people’s expectations of my art. Ideally, nationalism should play no role in the benefits of art, but realistically, culture is deeply intertwined with art and as a result audiences categorize music by geography. Music, in my opinion, transcends genre/geography—it’s the culture that gives birth to it that our social cognition has a hard time disassociating. And that’s ok with me if it’s the case but I feel like I’m aware of it when it is happening.
You have been playing with Terence Blanchard’s band for several years. How has that impacted how you value a band? How has it impacted your relationship (artistic and personal) with solitude?
You get to really know someone musically when you play with them for years and they get to know you as well. There are pros and cons to that because after a while there are fewer surprises but that’s also a pro because it pushes you to grow more and more to keep the musical dialogue interesting.
I don’t really understand the second half of the question in regard to solitude.
Do you deliberately try to create beautiful music? What doorways does beauty open?
Yes, it opens the door to more beauty.
What do you think is the value, if any, of studying music in colleges and universities?
The value of studying music in academia is that you gain knowledge. Of course knowledge gained is always good. But knowledge gained is not something handed to you, you have to seek it and work hard to attain it; and school is not the only place where it can be found—it comes from curiosity and a desire from within.
What artists (with whom you have not yet worked) would you like to collaborate?
I’m pretty lucky to get to collaborate with a lot of people that I like but I like Jonny Greenwood’s work and Annie Clark and her band, St. Vincent a lot. There are many filmmakers that I would love to work with too. The list is too long but Alastair Fothergill, Anthony Geffen, Jason Roberts and Mark Duplass are on the short list for sure.
View Fabian Almazan’s artwork here.