With the world on hold, carbon emissions have slowed, and there are clear skies aplenty. On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, pianist Fabian Almazan and the duo Endless Field urge us to find similarly clearheaded solutions to our environmental problems.
Almazan is the founder and director of Biophilia Records, an innovative label with sustainability at its core. “I feel a sense of urgency,” he says. “We are currently going through the sixth mass extinction on the planet, which means that more than 50 percent of the species on earth are going extinct. I can’t just hear that and not do something about it.”
Today Almazan announces the first Biophilia Records Festival, which was originally scheduled for The Jazz Gallery in New York but will now take the shape of 14 online performances and workshops through May 30. Confirmed artists include Almazan himself (April 26) and trumpeter Adam O’Farrill with his father, pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill (May 1).
For this episode of The Checkout, I spoke with Almazan over Zoom about his earth-first approach as a producer and curator, which extends to the trademarked, origami-inspired album packaging he calls the Biopholio. He also highlighted some of the talent on his label, including vocalist and composer Sara Serpa, whose new album, Recognition, will release on June 5.
But the majority of this show focuses on Endless Field, an acoustic duo featuring Jesse Lewis on guitar and Ike Sturm on bass. Their ambitious new project is Alive In The Wilderness, which models an organic (albeit unintentional) form of social distancing: to make the album, Sturm and Lewis ventured into the Utah wilderness, recording themselves in the elements. They filmed these excursions for a series of videos, including “Prayer For The Earth,” which premieres here.
The duo speaks of their harrowing adventures, pushing themselves to the human limit of exhaustion and dehydration. “We went up into this slot canyon to record. I think my arm literally healed a month ago,” says Sturm. (Keep in mind, the duo recorded last summer.)
“Carrying my bass, it was all sand,” he adds. “And it was up this cliff. And the cliff was about 100 feet tall. We had a 100-foot audio snake to go down to the computer. It was completely insane. And getting the instruments up was easier than getting them down. And, when we started to come down, there were some fearful moments. We knew it was on edge — and we like that, but it was definitely a question of ‘Wow, how far are we going to take this?’”
Alive In The Wilderness, with its 17 stunning videos, will be released on June 12. All proceeds will be donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Endless Field kicks off the Biophila Festival today.