The story of Bryan and the Aardvarks
Bryan Copeland formed Bryan and the Aardvarks in order to explore an
inventive new sound that derived from his jazz training as well as his
upbringing in pop and country music. The music he writes for the
quartet combines a hushed intimacy with memorable, singable melodies
and a narrative directness that nevertheless leaves space for
expressive improvisation. In pianist Fabian Almazan, vibraphonist
Chris Dingman, and drummer Joe Nero, he has assembled a distinctive
ensemble able to flesh out his unique compositions.
“These guys are all very sensitive musicians,” Copeland says. “Their
main focus is making music sound beautiful. There’s no ego involved.
These guys are all amazing technical masters, but they put all that
stuff aside to develop this group sound.”
Raised in the North Texas panhandle and later in the more urban
centers of Dallas and Austin, Copeland grew up surrounded by country
music – which he rejected as a child but later came to appreciate.
Instead, his tastes turned more to pop, rock, and singer-songwriter
music, especially the likes of The Kinks, David Bowie, Elliott Smith,
and Nick Drake. The latter two, who combine an incisive expressiveness
with an air of mystery, seem especially relevant influences on Bryan
and the Aardvarks.
Copeland hit on the sound of Bryan and the Aardvarks organically,
while coping with the death of a close friend from Texas. He sat down
at the piano one day and the shimmering melody of “Sunshine Through
the Clouds” flowed out of him. “I was having a hard time dealing with
the feelings I was having,” Copeland recalls, “and I wasn’t really
thinking about what I was playing. Something deep in my subconscious
just came out, and that’s still the approach I take with this band. I
just close my eyes and let my subconscious write the music.”
Bryan Copeland - Founder/Bassist/Primary Composer
Bryan spent the early part of his life growing up in the farm lands of the North Texas panhandle. He lived his more formative years in Dallas and Austin, Tx. Now he resides in New York, where he uses his country roots to influence his unique compositional styling. He began studying the bass with world renowned classical bassist Satoshi Okamoto(New York Philharmonic). In 2003, he received his degree in Jazz Studies from Texas State under the tutelage of Dr. James Polk(Ray Charles Writer and Arranger). Frequently he finds himself on the road touring with up and coming pop singer Ashley Arrison, and Toby Goodshank (Moldy Peaches). He has recorded musicians like David Binney, Jon Brion, Radney Foster, Andre Heyword, and Aben Eubanks. Some of the people Bryan has been fortunate enough to perform with include Roy Hargrove, Tim Warfield, Marcus Belgrave, Jamire Williams, Marcus Printup, Frank Locrasto, Donald Edwards, drummer J.J. Johnson, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Houghton, and Ernie Watts.
Fabian Almazan - Pianist/Keyboardist/Composer/Producer
Pianist Fabian Almazan, a native of Cuba now residing in New York City, found his musical roots as a child in Habana, where he first became involved in the classical piano tradition. When his parents could not afford to pay for private piano lessons, having fled Cuba in political exile to Miami, Florida, classical pianist Conchita Betancourt was gracious enough to impart free lessons for over three years. Thanks to Mrs. Betancourt’s exceeding generosity, Fabian was able to audition for the New World School of the Arts High-School in Miami, Fl where he studied from 1998 to 2002 as a classical pianist and later on as a jazz pianist, having first discovered his love of jazz there as a sophomore. In 2002 Fabian was selected for the piano chair in the National 2002 Grammy High School Jazz Combo. The following year, Almazan won the piano chair for the newly up and running Brubeck Institute fellowship program based in northern California where he studied with Mark Levine and performed with Dave Brubeck and Christian McBride. In 2003, Fabian moved to New York City to study with Kenny Barron at the Manhattan School of Music. During the completion of his bachelor in jazz piano performance at the Manhattan School of Music he immersed himself in the realm of orchestral composition studying instrumentation and orchestration with Mr. Giampaolo Bracali. Under Mr. Bracali’s tutelage, Almazan composed several pieces for chamber ensembles including the string quartet & jazz piano trio piece entitled. In the spring of 2009 Fabian Almazan received a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music, selected as a recipient of the Michael W. Greene Scholarship, studying privately with Jason Moran. Most recently Fabian Almazan was selected as the winner of the Cuban arts organization The Cintas Foundation’s 2010 Brandon Fradd Award in Music Composition. For the past two years Fabian has been the pianist for Terence Blanchard’s quintet and has toured the U.S., South America, Asia and Europe with the group. Fabian can be heard on Terence Blanchard’s new album “Choices” under the Concord Label. Almazan has had the opportunity to perform with such artists as Gretchen Parlato, Paquito D’Rivera, Kendrick Scott Oracle, Bilal, Kurt Elling and Ambrose Akinmusire among others.
Chris Dingman - Vibraphonist/Composer
Hailed by the New York Times as a “dazzling” soloist and composer with a “fondness for airtight logic and burnished lyricism,” Chris Dingman is one of the most sought-after vibraphonists of his generation. Dingman draws inspiration and meaning from a diverse set of musical sources, uniting them in a progressive approach that has earned him praise for his “poignant work” (David Sprague, Variety), his “adaptive humility” (Nate Chinen, NY Times), and as “downright hypnotic” (John Barron, All About Jazz). His recent work as a sideman can be heard on Ambrose Akinmusire’s Prelude to Cora (Fresh Sound/New Talent), Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi Recordings) and Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day (Clean Feed), among other recordings. He is also featured as a guest soloist on Gabriela Anders's Bossa Beleza (E1 Music/Koch Records). For these achievements, he was named a Rising Star on vibes in the 2009 Downbeat Critics Poll, and in two recent years Jazz Journalist Association member Phil DiPietro has acknowledged him for top ten sideman performances of the year. A graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, he has performed and studied extensively with many of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Marcus Miller, and Terence Blanchard.
Joe Nero - Drummer
Joe Nero, a New York resident from Philadelphia, is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied jazz drumming under Justin DiCioccio, and John Riley, and composing and arranging with Garry Dial. He also attended the prestigious Henry Mancini Institute in 2005 and performed with Quincy Jones, Bobby McFerrin, Dave Gruisin, Patti Austin and Doc Severinsen. Professionally, Joe strives to have a life in music, and has enjoyed performing in a wide variety of contexts: the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, jazz clubs with icons like Jimmy Bruno and Eric Alexander, weddings, recording sessions, Broadway and off-Broadways shows, and with many singer-songwriters around Manhattan.