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September 2, 2014
Saturday, May 31, 2014

The perfect excuse to justify experimentation

Cirilo Fernández an his quartet Fernández 4 playing during a rehearsal.
By Lorenzo Miquel
Herald Staff
Before presenting his new album, Cirilo Fernández talked to the Herald about jazz, influences, surf

Cirilo Fernandez’s life is defined by boards, whether they’re filled with keys or wax. He uses them to surf through notes and waves, splashing everything and everyone he encounters with a modern, cosmopolitan vision steamed from his education at the renowned Berklee College of Music and his many influences both inside and outside of music. His quartet, Fernández 4, is composed by three other artists of great musical stature: Nicolás Sorín (voice, synthesizers and even I-pads), Pipi Piazzolla (drums) and Mariano Sívori (double bass). Fernández 4 represents the height of an ongoing trend defined by the mixture of different genres. Jazz’s revitalization — a modern tribute rendered in these modern times. And in the midst of this trendy sound, Fernández 4 stands strong as one of the latest, freshest attempts to usher jazz into the wider audience it deserves.

Do you believe mixing different styles is a way of innovating?

Yes, mixing things is a way of innovating. Jazz, by definition, is always evolving, always moving forward. Jazz is the perfect excuse to justify any experiment one embarks upon. It has a constant need to grow.

What is the reason behind such a large number of collaborations in different projects led by Piazzolla, Sorín, Sívori and yourself?

First of all, we’re really good friends. Secondly, we have a great affinity, a good artistic communication — we all understand each other and we’ve been together for quite some time.

I always thought that improvisation is nothing more than a free conversation between different instruments and musicians, what is your take on improvisation?

It is exactly that. It’s like you have a special tool box, your words, which constitute the way you express yourself. But you also need a background; improvising in different styles is like talking in different languages.

How would you describe your fellow band members?

They are all geniuses, I love them! Piazzolla is one of the most versatile drummers in town. He can do it all. One of the few drummers that can take those odd metrics to an organic feel — what he’s doing feels very natural.

Next, we call Mariano (Sívori), the tank, he is such a strong player, like an anchor that we can cling to musically. Pipi and him have been playing for almost 20 years, so they are really tight as a rhythm section. They lay down the foundation and, for us, that’s like having a magic carpet!

Last but not least, Nico is a guy who has wonderful ideas. Not only in the melodies he creates, but also in the way he interprets the music, the place where he takes it with his instruments, his sounds. Also the way in which he uses his voice, he takes it up a notch from the traditional jazz man.

After graduating from Berklee, what things did you keep and what did you get rid of?

I’ve read in many books that whenever you finish something they tell you to forget everything you’ve learned and just do it. So I think in a way this is one of those things. You get to a point where you really just try to let things flow without being too brainy about it. There’s a lot of tools we have from Berkeley, there are certain things that make developing ideas easier and quicker. There’s also a certain criteria for making compositions, a certain way to put things together in a way that makes sense, in a way that doesn’t bore the audience.

Sorín’s compositions and yours have like an underlying intention to broaden the genre’s reach, to make jazz more appealing to the general taste.

Absolutely, that’s the main objective.

Being also an accomplished surfer, do you find any similarities between surf and jazz?

Of course! It’s merely conceptual and metaphorical but jazz’s improvisation and the unpredictability of the ocean draws a quick comparison. Also, when you’re surfing you really enjoy being on the wave and it only happens for about ten seconds — within an hour in which you’re pedalling like crazy — and the effort done by mastering improvisation is very similar; then of course, the feeling of riding a wave can be translated into the pleasure of performing.

Do you still carry in your style earlier musical influences?

Everything I heard when I was little has had some effect on what I am as a musician today. For instance, I remember my dad listening to Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, as far as jazz is concerned. On the other hand, my mom used to listen to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, The Beatles, and I also have a lot of that.

And those influences are somewhat recognizable in your playing style and in your quartet’s sound.

Definitely. There’s also a lot of things I listened to when I was a teenager, like the alternative-rock/grunge movement with Nirvana, Pixies, Alice in Chains, Melvins, Faith No More, and so on. A lot of those bands’ attitude can be translated into what we do now and with Nico (Sorín) we have that same musical taste so we also try to bring that to the mix… (Regarding influences), you nurture from all things but you resignify them so they make sense to you.

Your song Brion, for example, has a certain Radiohead texture to it...

Yes, very good! For me, Radiohead is the biggest thing nowadays, I’m a die-hard fan.

What are your future ambitions?

My biggest hope is to keep pushing the envelope.

When & Where:

Fernández 4 presents No Fear at Boris Club (Gorriti 5568), tonight 9.30pm. Tickets from 70 pesos at the venue.

@lorenzomiquel
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