Pablo Ablanedo, a pianist from Argentina is living and performing in the United States. What might not seem an extraordinary thing - however there´s more behind this man, literally speaking: the ensemble he is running is not just a quartet, not just a quintet - but an octet. The "Pablo Ablanedo Octet" recently published an album - "From Down There" - and Ablanedo has a lot to tell about music and life in general ...
Carina: On your latest album you combine different styles and traditions: jazz with klezmer, latin with classical music. Did this come to you naturally - or in form of a conscious "idea"?
Pablo: I try to be conscious of the ideas that come to me spontaneously. The music in "From Down There" is no exeption. Most important for me is what finally comes out in the end, if the results fill an expressive necessity - whatever the sound is like. The traditions that you can hear in my work surely are part of the influences that I was exposed to.
Carina: There are numerous instruments integrated in your music - a prominent violin and percussion gives it kind of an "exotic" touch. Why is the violin important for your musical sound?
Pablo: The violin is so versatile and opens a different palette of sound. It has special technical advantages that I don’t have with other instruments. Besides, it contributes to contrast and variety of the octet’s timbre as it combines perfectly with the reeds and trumpet. The violin gives me freedom in range and sustaining of notes, it provides many sound effects characteristic of the strings. - It’s strange, I never thought that this music had a kind of exotic sound, but a few people already told me so.
Carina: "From Down There" is an album that - in spite of its complexity - is good to listen to. Nothing seems to be overloaded, it is easy to follow the music. What were your intentions towards the listener?
Pablo: I am glad that you say so! I don’t want to sound complicated, that is not a value for me. I think that to sound "complicated" is a defect or mistake - maybe a thing of immaturity! - I am very careful with the “easy to follow” that you mention, specially knowing that there are many complex parts in the octets music.
Complex does not have to mean complicated - I don’t think somebody likes to listen to a complicated discourse. I want to build bridges towards the listener and not cool walls. I want to share my experience, so that the audience becomes part of the performance, has an influence on it. That is very interesting and beautiful.
Carina: On your CD the singer Katie Viqueira is featured with "Dreaming" - a vocal-solo-track. Do the lyrics have a special meaning for you? How did you get in contact with Katie?
Pablo: I met her in Boston where she usually participates in the octet’s concerts through some musician’s friends in common. She is great and we are working on a couple of pieces for the next record. Regarding "Dreaming" - there´s no special meaning intended in the lyrics. Everything just came up all together one day - it´s about the joy of being a musician and being alive. - Recently, I remembered that my father used to sing me a love song when I was four or five years old: "Between the Moon and the Sun". Because of this, probably some lines of "Dreaming" might possess a personal meaning for me.
Carina: It was always difficult to have a band of eight musicians and earn enough money with it - how do you all manage to keep the group working and touring in economically bad times as ours?
Pablo: We never toured yet, this is a relatively new group. I’m working on touring - especially on finding a booking agent in Europe. I try to keep the octet active as much as I can, because it is good for the music to grow as well as to update the repertoire. I am very fortunate to have such a strong support of all of the octet performers, although nobody made a considerable money difference playing this music yet.
Carina: You are teaching a lot - one element of it is the so called "CAPTO piano method". How would you describe that method?
Pablo: CAPTO - "Correct Perceptive Attention for the Total Order of Movement" - is a technique created by the pianist Susana Bonora. It bases on the "Conscious System for the Technique of Movement" of Fedora Aberastury with whom she worked during twenty years in Argentina. To that she added her experiences in music teaching, psychology and NLP.
It is basically a practice that uses a group of "tools" to open solutions to these obstacles in the learning and performing of an instrument that usually frustrates a high percentage of students. It works by analyzing and understanding the entangling webs that may arise between human perception, thought and emotional structures, between muscular behavior - effective or not! - in performance and musical language.
Carina: What do you think is most important to learn for young musicians who plan to become professionals?
Always stay very close to your dreams! That´s what helps me to do what I am doing today and contributes to my happiness. I never regretted it. With whatever do, I try to choose what I really love. Susana Bonora helped me a lot in achieving that - I am very grateful to her!
Being a musician is not a career, it is more serious than that. It is a part of the way that you choose to live. You can be a real artist without being a professional in the field. Charles Ives and Kafka are good examples of that.
Carina: Your roots - musically and in life - how much do they influence your approach to music in general?
Pablo: Musically, my roots - or where I come from - are very present in the octet repertoire. For good or for bad, there is always a little bit of drama, nostalgia and passion - like in basically every music that comes from an Argentinean. Thinking about how it influences my approach to the music, lately I try to be a little more "rational" in many ways. This is because I think the feelings are present all the time, they are not going away.
I prefer to think sharp in what I need to do - to take care of what I need emotionally. - I am going to try to be more clear: a good example is when a piece of music awakes in me a certain emotion. I try to be very rational in choosing the musical elements and treatments that in the end will evoke in the listener what I feel, if that - and I hope so - is really possible.
I say all this, because most of the time, we Latin-Americans - and this is just my personal opinion - have the tendency to over-exaggerate our emotions in detriment of other rational options that can be more convenient to take care of our most deep, honest and pure sentiments.
Pablo Ablanedo Octet
Carina: You were inspired in your formative years by Egberto Gismonti, Bill Evans and Igor Stravinsky - however on your latest album we also find a composition by Billy Strayhorn ...
Pablo: Herb Pomeroy assigned me this piece - "U.M.M.G." - to arrange for big band. It was for one of his classes when I was his student at Berklee. I think he expected me to do something different from what finally came up, but was very happy with it in the end. And of course so was I - after having panicked and having thought that I´d messed up the whole work. - I love Strayhorn’s and Duke’s music. However, it is impossible to keep track of all the musicians or artists in general that influenced you.
Carina: Please tell me a little bit about the origin of the "Pablo Ablanedo Octet" - how did you find the right musicians for your project? When you are composing, do you compose for the band - with the musicians in mind who will play the certain part?
Pablo: I started with a sextet, but I felt that something was missing. I was always struggling to fit the music to to what I was hearing in my head. With the time the ensemble became an octet and I began to feel very comfortable and satisfied with this format. It took me time to find the actual lineup of the group - I had to take very hard and difficult decisions about changing performers. More so, when you know that all of them support the project in many ways and they are in just for the music! - It was the hardest part in dealing with this group.
Now, I am very happy with the members and more and more I write the music knowing who is going to play it! Also, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine rearranging the pieces to another format without loosing something. This is very challenging and risky. I try to compose and not arrange for this octet.
Pablo Ablanedo Octet - "From Down There"
Carina: The label "Fresh Sound New Talent" that published your album is located in Barcelona, Spain. - This seems strange for a band from New York. How did this contact start and what are the advantages of this label?
Pablo: I don’t know if this is strange in today’s world ... - Actually, this interview is something of the kind: a magazine from Germany interviewing an Argentinean musician resident in the United States and whose group members are coming from America, Israel, Venezuela and Argentina! I think this will become more and more common everywhere.
I knew Fresh Sound by some friends that released albums there and they recommended me to call. Also, the catalog of the company is great and it matches with the kind of music that I am doing. I sent the music to Jordi Pujol and he wanted to release it. Some of the advantages I find with this label are that I have direct contact with the owner. If he releases something it´s because he really likes it. To know that he has a passion for your work means that you can record what you really like - with no interference and with the support and confidence of the company. Another advantage is that the relationship with Fresh Sound at least in my experience is very clear and straight forward.
Carina: What will the future bring? Will a new album feature more vocalists or a different musical mixture, will there be a tour through Europe? - Other plans?
Pablo: I almost complete all the music for next album that - if everything goes as planned - will be recorded in the end of Spring. It will be a continuation of "From Down There" and will include music for the Octet plus singer and maybe flute. Touring through Europe is the next step which I’m working on hard. I just need a booking agent over there. I received several calls to go there but it is a overwhelming work just for me to organize it all. I found myself having to choose between doing music or expending my time making calls to play the music that I suppose to be writing.
Carina: Do you have a sort of philosophy for life?
Pablo: I don’t follow any religion or school of thought, if this is what you mean. This is so, basically, because I have an allergy to institutions and more - in matters of the soul and spirit. I just try to be happy and I know several things that I need for that to happen. One of them is to do what I love and nothing else. Play and write music is one of them as well as teaching.
Also, I know that I need freedom - and first of all freedom from my limitations! From the last several years everyday I was thinking about the mystery of life and death. I try to be conscious that all this ends one day and that there is no guarantee that you have another entire day tomorrow. This - despite what it may sound like - gives me a lot of good will. It gives me the energy to live and to value every single moment on this planet.
Pablo Ablanedo im Internet: www.pabloablanedo.com
Fresh Sound im Internet: www.freshsoundrecords.com
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Pablo Ablanedo Octet - "From Down There" - Rezension (erschienen: 23.11.2001)
Fotos 1/2: Lucile Chaurin, Foto 3: Frederik Rubens