Agustí Fernandez, A Portrait In Words For An Artist Of Sounds: a discussion with Ken Vandermark

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Ken Vandermark: The first time I encountered your playing, it was when you had joined the Barry Guy New Orchestra, which I think was very soon after you became part of the group in 2002.  Could you let me know where and when your first concerts with the orchestra took place?

Agustí Fernandez: From what I remember I joined the BGNO in Autumn 2002. I remember my summer vacation in Andalusia the same year. I rented a piano in order to learn the piece I was supposed to play. I met the BGNO during the last concert Marilyn Crispell played with them, at Jazz em Agosto, Lisbon.  I was sitting next to her while she was playing, turning pages for Marilyn in an open air amphitheater- windy day… hahaha- observing and trying to remember what she was doing. After this concert as a privileged spectator I was ready to sit in for the next concert.

KV: How did your invitation to join Barry’s group happen?

AF: It came through Marilyn Crispell’s suggestion. In that time she was getting tired of coming to Europe for sometimes just one concert with the BGNO (overseas flight, jet lag, etc.). So after some discussion with the band she decided to leave and she suggested my name at the piano stool.

KV: Had you been working with Barry in other configurations before that, was he aware of your playing through other means?

AF: Earlier that year I joined the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. It was in Oslo, where we recorded Memory/Vision for ECM. This is where I met Barry, who also was (and is) a member of this ensemble. So he knew me from this group. This was the first time we ever played together.

KV: If being a part of the New Orchestra was the start of a number of collaborations with other members of that band (duos with Mats Gustafsson, the performances with various groups headed by Evan Parker, etc.), and with other ensembles constructed out of international lineups, how has that involvement impacted your perspective on contemporary improvised music?

AF: Well, in fact it was the other way around. I first met Evan and Mats, and afterwards joined the BGNO.

I met Evan Parker in 1994 in Mulhouse. I was opening with a solo piano set. And on the second set there was a trio with Evan Parker, Joe McPhee and Daunik Lazro. The following year (1995) I invited Evan to play with me in Barcelona and we also did a recording (Tempranillo). And since then we have been playing in different associations, both in Barcelona, Madrid or Europe. So Evan knew me very well when he asked me to join the EAE.

And the same, or similar, goes with Mats Gustafsson. I met him in Stockholm in 1997. I was touring Europe with a theater company, and Peter Kowald told me to meet Mats when in Stockholm. Mats and I played a duet at Harald Hult’s record store, [Andra Jazz] (Mats still has this recording, ha!); this is how I met him.

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