A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Rhizome, by Fabian Almazan (Blue Note/ArtistShare, 2014)

Rhizome, by Fabian Almazan (Blue Note/ArtistShare, 2014)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “rhizome,” a botanical term dating from the early 19th century, as the following:

“An elongated, usually horizontal, subterranean stem which sends out roots and leafy shoots at intervals along its length.”

Inspired by the symbolic undertones of the rhizome, pianist and composer Fabian Almazan released an ambitious project entitled Rhizome last year on Blue Note-ArtistShare, with music composed for an ensemble consisting of piano trio, string quartet, and voice. Almazan cites regeneration as a thematic idea that inspired the music on the album, having composed much of it in the aftermath of the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

“I came to embrace the idea that humanity is somehow all connected; we’re all nourished from the same rhizome,” he says.

Although continually busy as a leader and a sideman with Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective and more recently John Hollenbeck, Almazan, with support from a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant, has composed a new multi-movement suite for the Rhizome ensemble, which will have its New York City premiere performances at The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, December 11th and 12th, 2016.

“I’m trying to reflect the unpredictability of life—how in one moment you can experience something beautiful and then, without any warning, something dangerous or exciting,” he says. “There’s a lot of shifting in the music to reflect that; it’s something I wanted to experiment with.”

Almazan will be joined by Linda Oh on bass and Henry Cole on drums, who comprise the trio on his 2011 release Personalities, as well as a string quartet comprised of Megan Gould and Tomoko Omura on violin, Karen Waltuch on viola, Noah Offeld on cello. Vocalist-guitarist Camila Meza, for whom Almazan wrote music for his 2012-13 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission and who has been a frequent collaborator of Almazan’s in recent years, will also be featured as part of the Rhizome ensemble.

“I feel like I’ve gotten to know her voice and her style very well, and it’s gotten easier for me to write for her,” he says, adding, “I don’t come to her with stuff that’s completely out of her range!”

Almazan’s new CMA-commissioned work will be recorded on Valentine’s Day next year, but you’ll have a chance to hear it first on our stage this weekend.

Pianist Fabian Almazan presents Rhizome at The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, December 11th and 12th, 2016. On both evenings Almazan will be joined by Camila Meza on voice and guitar, Megan Gould and Tomoko Omura on violin, Karen Waltuch on viola, Noah Offeld on cello, Linda Oh on bass, and Henry Cole on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. each night. $22 general admission ($12 for members). Purchase tickets here.

Rhizome by Fabian Almazan has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America’s 2014 New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.