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INTERVIEWS

Miguel Zenon: Celebrating the Music of La Isla

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For the last decade, saxophonist Miguel Zenón has distinguished himself as one of the most innovative and creative musicians in the modern jazz idiom. The Puerto Rican-born altoist accomplished this feat by reaching back to the musical and cultural traditions of his island. On groundbreaking recordings such as Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005) and Esta Plena (Marsalis Music, 2009), Zenón paid musical homage to the rich rhythms of Bomba and Plena. Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music, 2011) was a heartfelt tribute to great Puerto Rico composers such as “Tite' Curet Alonso, Bobby Capo and Rafael Hernandez. The music world was also paying ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon & The Rhythm Collective: Oye!!! Live In Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rican pride oozes from every album under alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón's name. Most recently, he explored plena music in a jazz context on the winning Esta Plena (Marsalis Music, 2009), and put a new spin on songs from the Puerto Rican Songbook with Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music, 2011). While those projects differ greatly, with rough-and-tumble antics on the former and an air of refinement on the latter, they're both built on sturdy conceptual platforms that are supported by Puerto Rican pillars. Oye!!! Live In Puerto Rico is another date that points toward Zenón's place of origin, but it stands ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon / Laurent Coq: Rayuela

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Inspired by Julio Cortáza's sweeping and influential novel, Rayuela (Pantheon, 1963), pianist Laurent Coq and saxophonist Miguel Zenón transform parts of the Argentinean writer's famous work into a memorable jazz release. Written in Spanish, and published in 1963, the title literally means “Hopscotch." The text has been described as an “introspective stream-of-consciousness" and a “masterpiece of ingenuity and originality," with an astounding 155 chapters that can be read linearly, or without chronological order, leading to multiple thought-provoking conclusions. Likewise, the project is fascinating as it envisions varied characters and episodes from the novel into ten compositions steeped ...

LIVE REVIEWS

The Miguel Zenon Quartet: Half Moon Bay, CA, November 20, 2011

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The Miguel Zenón QuartetDouglas Beach House aka Bach Dancing & Dynamite SocietyHalf Moon Bay, CaliforniaNovember 20, 2011 On a clear Sunday afternoon, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón brought on his seasoned quartet to play the Douglas Beach House. With a near-capacity audience, it was a rare gift to hear this quartet--also featuring Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, Austrian bassist Hans Glawischnig and Puerto Rican drummer Henry Cole--led by the Puerto Rican saxophonist extraordinaire. The concert, which ran from late afternoon into the early evening, drew from Zenón's newest album Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis ...

INTERVIEWS

Miguel Zenon: Jazz Sherpa

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At the dawn of the second decade of his career, saxophonist Miguel Zenón has established himself as one of the most sophisticated and stylish players of the new millennium. In a very short time, Zenón has made his mark as a composer, band leader, educator, and jazz advocate. He has performed and recorded with scores of the scene's most prominent musicians as leader, side man and member of the groundbreaking SFJAZZ Collective, where he is the sole founding member remaining with the group. Zenón has taken jazz awareness and education to new levels through his work as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

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The cover photo on alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón's Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook is of two people dancing in the middle of a boulevard. They are nicely dressed. The man's coat tail flies and their dance clasp is a passionate embrace, suggestive of a romantic yearning hitched to the side of a good time, a posture suggesting a sense of pride and dignity. And that's what the music on this release is, in large part, all about.On Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005) Zenón explored his Puerto Rican heritage in a quartet setting. On Awake (Marsalis Music, 2008), he ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro - The Puerto Rican Songbook

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Miguel ZenonAlma Adentro: The Puerto Rican SongbookMarsalis Music2011 When so-called “Latin jazz" comes up in conversation, music or musicians connected to Cuba or Brazil are usually the topic of conversation. While it's true that Afro-Cuban stylings, bossa nova beats and sizzling samba numbers seem to dominate in this umbrella category, they're only the tip of the iceberg that is the music of Latin America. Thankfully, some important jazz musicians are helping to broaden the rest of the world's view on what Latin America has to offer. Pianist Danilo Perez has connected ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Esta Plena

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Like a nimble jet aircraft, Miguel Zenón's Esta Plena leaps into flight from its very first notes. The album arrives not long after Awake (Marsalis Music, 2008), Zenón's jazz quartet/string quartet outing of 2008, but it follows more logically on the heels of 2005's Jíbaro (Marsalis Music), a jazz meditation on the rural music of Zenón's native Puerto Rico. Esta Plena, different but related, finds the alto saxophonist melding authentic plena music with the forward-thinking jazz aesthetic he's developed as a New Yorker. The result is adrenaline-fueled and percussion-centric, even if the key to executing this riotously difficult music is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Esta Plena

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From the fruits of winning both a MacArthur ("genius grant") and Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, expands his clear vision of modern jazz and Puerto Rican folk music in Esta Plena. With an incisive voice, his involvement with the SFJAZZ Collective, Guillermo Klein's Y Los Gauchos and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra is well documented, but his own recordings are what truly reflect his unique heritage and identity. Where Zenón's Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005) explored the diverse folk Culture Musica Jibara (Jibaro Music), this project finds Zenón doing more research and culminating with fresh ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Awake

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From its very first notes (played by a string quartet), Awake is identifiably Miguel Zenon: lyrical, spiritual and original. For his fourth date as a leader Zenon reunites his go-to posse--Luis Perdomo (piano) and Hans Glawischnig (bass)--but with a key change in the drum chair, Henry Cole replacing Antonio Sanchez. The strings are artfully employed on the opener as a contrapuntal foil for Zenon's featherlight interweavings and on “Lamamilla" as a trilling texture evoking birdcalls; Tony Malaby, Michael Rodriguez and Ben Gerstein (on tenor, trumpet and trombone, respectively) make a brief cameo as a free jazz “choir' ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Awake

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Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon delivers his most thought provoking recording to date with Awake , showing his growth as a performer and conceptualist. Whether performing with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, The SFJazz Collective, or leading his own groups, Zenon's piercing tonality and fierce playing is always identifiable. Not a trivial task, when considering a wealth of strong young altoists that includes Rudresh Mahanthappa, Loren Stillman and Steve Lehman. Zenon brought fresh interpretations of native Puerto Rican rural music to Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005); on Awake the altoist now adds composition and instrument changes that include Fender Rhodes, ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Day 1 - Ottawa International Jazz Festival, June 22, 2006

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11

After an outstanding 25th anniversary celebration in 2005, the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival's 2006 lineup raised a number of eyebrows when it was announced back in April. Last year's event sported a star-heavy and jazz-heavy lineup on the outdoor main stage at Confederation Park, including Joshua Redman, Diana Krall, David Sanchez and Terence Blanchard. This year the lack of more clearly defined jazz artists ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Jibaro

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Jibaro consists of ten original compositions by the young Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón. The session's inspiration comes from the music of jibaros--Puerto Rican peasants--but there's nothing simplistic about the material Zenón has penned for his quartet, which includes pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Antonio Sánchez. The forms of Zenón's compositions tend to be complex, and it's not apparent at first listen how they link directly to the original music. The style of Jibaro, in other words, is contemporary, mainstream jazz first, and not folk music given a jazz dressing. Zenón has acknowledged that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Jibaro

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With the relatively concurrent release of Wayne Shorter's new live recording, Beyond the Sound Barrier, and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon's Jibaro, there are bound to be comparisons. Like Shorter, Zenon is a deep thinker, capable of taking the simplest Puerto Rican folk melodies--the basis of Jibaro--and placing them into more harmonically and rhythmically complex contexts. Also like Shorter, Zenon's cerebral music requires an intense focus that makes considerable demands on both the musicians who play it and the listeners who experience it. And it's possible that Zenon will ultimately achieve the same degree of significance as Shorter. He ...



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