DRANOFF 2 PIANO PRESENTS

ABOUT MARTIN BEJERANO

Martin Bejerano, a native of Miami, Florida, has been active as a professional musician since the age of fifteen, when he began his performance career playing George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue" concerto with the Mexican-American Bi-National Symphony. 

A graduate of the esteemed New World School of the Arts, he received a full scholarship to attend Florida State University, where he studied classical piano with Leonidas Lipovetsky, and jazz piano, composition, and arranging with Bill Peterson, whom he cites as one of his most important influences. He then went on to receive a Master’s degree from the University of Miami, also under full scholarship. During this time, Martin won third place in the nation in the prestigious 1999 Great American Jazz Piano Competition, and was chosen to attend the famed Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Colony.

In the summer of 2000, Bejerano decided a move to New York City was in order to further develop his career. The move turned out to be a good one, and, in less than a year, he was asked to join the quartet of legendary jazz drummer and Grammy award-winning artist Roy Haynes. In 2004, their recording "Fountain of Youth" was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album--Martin’s first recording on a major label. In January 2002, Martin also joined internationally acclaimed guitarist Russell Malone’s quartet, and continues to tour and record with both these groups.

Employing a serious technical command of the piano, a highly modern harmonic and rhythmic concept, and a commitment to lyricism and musicality, Martin has continually garnered critical praise across the world. Having performed with the likes of the Christian McBride Band, Dave Holland, Pat Metheney, Ignacio Berroa, Lonnie Plaxico, Bryan Lynch, Adam Nussbaum, Arturo Sandoval, Mingus Big Band, Marcus Strickland, and even traded choruses with the legendary Chick Corea, one can easily gain a sense of Bejerano’s formidable talent on the keyboard. Martin has performed at most of the major jazz festivals, clubs and concert halls around the world, and is proud to have toured with “Jazz Reach”, a non-profit organization that presents multimedia concerts for school children across the country, educating them on the history of jazz music as an American art form. 

In 2006, producer and Reservoir record label owner Mark Feldman heard Martin perform at the Kingston Jazz Festival, approached him after the show, and soon after offered to produce Martin’s debut CD as a leader. Recorded and engineered by acclaimed engineer Jim Anderson at Avatar studios in New York City, Martin’s debut CD Evolution/Revolution was released in May 2007 to high critical praise. It quickly shot up to number nine on the Jazz Week Jazz Album Chart, which lists the top 50 jazz albums based on airplay. Martin's career as a solo artist has blossomed with recent performance at Symphony Space, Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, Jazz Gallery, and Festival Miami, as well as having his trio featured on NPR’s nationally syndicated show “Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater”. Martin was also awarded the prestigious "New Jazz Works" composition and ensemble development grant by Chamber Music America in 2010.

Currently, Martin heads the jazz piano department at the University of Miami, teaching jazz piano, improvisation and composition, and continues to perform internationally. He is featured on several recent recordings, including "Evolution/Revolution", and Roy Haynes’s "Roy-alty". 

STORY OF THE MUSIC

Incorporating numerous genres into one composition is always a risky and potentially foolhardy endeavor... especially when those genres include classical and jazz – two forms of music disparate in many ways. Stirring Afro-Cuban into the pot further complicates things, yet that was the attempt in composing Fantasía de Tres Mundos, which draws upon the three musical worlds that have been a big part of my life as a musician, composer, and improviser. Certainly, this is not a new concept, and there is a good amount of music that blends these elements. Often, however, this music is criticized for the jazz not being “jazzy” enough or the Latin not being “Latin” enough. Certainly this is a moot issue, because if the resulting music is great, then where’s the problem? However, this point has always sat with me, and my goal in composing this piece was to incorporate elements of these two styles in their truest form, yet in a way that made it possible for classical pianists to perform it. The two piano format is a wonderful one for this experiment, as it truly allows for an orchestral or full band sound from essentially one instrument. Furthermore, the piano is an integral instrument in both jazz and Afro-Cuban music, and is able to emulate the percussive elements of these styles. Though the piece is written to be played by either ‘classical‘ or ‘jazz‘ pianists (or one of each?), I was most interested in making this piece accessible and approachable to the non-improvising pianist – without sacrificing any of the ‘true’ characteristics of jazz and Afro-Cuban harmony, rhythm, and improvisational solo lines. All the rhythms, composed “improvisational” solo lines, and chord voicing and rhythmic patterns are all very much true to the modern piano style of playing Afro-Cuban influenced jazz – it’s written how a “jazz” player would play it. The classical aspect of the piece lies in how the piece is orchestrated between the four hands, some of the harmonic material (jazz has been stealing harmony from classical music since its inception), and in many of the transitional sections of the piece.

Besides the rhythmic aspects and intricacies of swing and Afro-Latin rhythms and grooves, improvisation is probably the biggest element separating classical and jazz/Latin jazz music. In the improvisational “solo” sections of this piece, the pianist has the option of playing a written out solo (an oxymoron, admittedly), or improvising over the chord structure. However, one of the transitional sections is purely improvisational for the pianist, with nothing written out, save suggested harmonies to improvise over. I felt it was important to give even the non-improvising pianist an opportunity to improvise, but without the burden of keeping strict time, rhythm and groove.

Classical composers such as Gershwin, Copland, Ginastera, and Kapustin have been drawing from jazz, Afro-Caribbean, South American folk music and a multitude of other styles for many years, and with amazing results. It was my hope that a jazz composer could add to that tradition by bringing in an insider’s grasp of jazz and Afro-Cuban harmony, rhythms and improvisational vocabulary to the fold, in order to compose a piece where classical and non-improvising pianists could experience the wonderful feeling that playing this music can evoke.


 



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