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Fabian Almazan & Rhizome: Alcanza (Biophilia)

"Editor's Pick" review of pianist's "triumphant," "gorgeous" new album

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Cover of Fabian Almazan album "Alcanza"
Cover of Fabian Almazan album “Alcanza”

Pianist-composer Fabian Almazan’s ambition is not a matter of opinion. (Consider: The string quartet of violinists Megan Gould and Tomoko Omura, violist Karen Waltuch and cellist Noah Hoffeld isn’t supplemental, but rather equal partners in his band with Almazan, bassist Linda May Han Oh, guitarist-vocalist Camila Meza and drummer Henry Cole.) So his creation of a nine-part suite, Alcanza, is no surprise; nor is its multilayered complexity. More remarkable is the degree to which he pulls it off.

Little improvisation is apparent in the first four movements, though perhaps that’s because Almazan’s grand structure leaves little room for it. Shape-shifts occur internally to each movement, and then segue to the next without disruption. Meza’s Spanish vocals, with lyrics about exploring the world and finding one’s place in it, provide a stronger through line—but their presence, too, frustrates improvisation. Instead, the variety and intensity of emotional payloads engage the listener, bursting as they do with discovery, hope, pathos (particularly in the dulcet fourth movement, “Mas”) and wonder.

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