Fabian Almazan and Rhizome at The Jazz Gallery 2/17/18 (by Caroline Davis)

PERSONNEL: Fabian Almazan (piano, effects), Sara Serpa (voice), Tomoko Omura (violin), Megan Gould (violin), Karen Waltuch (viola), Noah Hoffeld (cello), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Dan Weiss (drums)

SET LIST:  Alcanza Suite: Vida Absurda y Bella, Marea Baja, Verla
Mas, Tribu T9, Cazador Antiguo, Pater Familias, Este Lugar, Marea Alta

HIGHLIGHTS:  Linda and Fabian traded choruses during one of the middle movements of the suite, and although it was definitely mixed meter with some measures of 5/8 closing the phrase, they didn’t make it sound pedantic in any way. It both looked and sounded like the joy you experience from the freeness of dancing sunshine.

…And with a fierce and skipping beat, Alcanza was brought to light. It took a moment for the group’s sonic demands to adjust to the room, but once they were in agreement, the room took heed.

The second movement gave way to Fabian’s first use of his pedals in the set. After the set, he showed us the Yamahiko pickup underneath the piano, which is a tiny microphone that picks up vibrations from the piano to run through the pedal rig (delays, ring modulation). Processing acoustic piano is a tricky venture; but Fabian’s skills were seamless and appropriately placed, and especially welcomed from where I was sitting the room, where it was a bit difficult to hear the piano. Before I noticed it, Sara came in and demonstrated her infallibly delicate upper register under Fabian’s rumbling harmony.

Akin to the vibe on Ornette’s “Lonely Woman,” there were several moments over the course of the suite when the rhythm section played in time energetically, while Sara, Linda, and Fabian’s left hand sang a rubato melody overtop. The strings joined in during a one particular early point and created a sparkling texture underneath a progression that brought Ravel to mind. In general, this string quartet was a nice addition to the trio, one could tell that Noah, Karen, Megan, and Tomoko were all well-versed in the nuances of improvised music.

The core trio brought much of the interactive magic, propelled forward by Weiss’ unexpected but perfectly placed fills. Another particularly moving moment was during an open piano solo, when Weiss accompanied Almazan’s dense harmonies. Dan’s choices didn’t seem written out, they scanned as purely felt.

It’s clear that Fabian put a lot of work into this lengthy work. Everything sat in its right place, timbrally and range-wise. A lot of the through-composed sections felt cinematic, and there were small glimpses of open interaction that could have gone on longer.

— by Caroline Davis