MZ: I've actually played in Detroit a few times. There's a music series at the Detroit Institute that I've played two or three times, and I played at the Detroit Jazz Festival a while back with David Sanchez and his band.
AAJ: Are the musicians on Oye Live your current working group? What is so special about them?
MZ: The Rhythm Collective first came together as a band in 2003, for a month-and-a-half-long tour of West Africa. The trip was part of a program called Jazz Ambassadors, which was then organized by the Department of State and The Kennedy Center. All the music on Oye was either written for the tour or developed during the trip.
Since all the members of the band are from Puerto Rico, a few years ago I organized a couple of performances there and decided to document the concerts. This recording is a product of those performances. The band is comprised of Aldemar Valentin on electric bass, Tony Escapa on drums and Reinaldo Dejesus on percussion. We are playing a few concerts in the States during the fall to promote the record. I would still have to say that my main group is still my Quartet with Luis Perdomo on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Henry Cole on drums. We've been playing together for more than a decade and have made five recordings as a band.
AAJ:Oye Live definitely has that down home,tipico feel. How does it feel to play before a hometown crowd?
MZ: The experience was amazing. Even though it was my first time putting together a live recording of my own, I knew how important it was to have the right audience there with us. That was one of the main reasons we decided to do the recording in Puerto Rico. Audiences there are usually very enthusiastic, but can also be very demanding. Because of this we were very conscious about bringing something to the table that not only had good quality but also presented musical ideas that a Puerto Rican audience could relate to. The concerts took place at a venue in Rio Piedras [a neighborhood in the capital of San Juan], where the main University campus is located. So we had a good mix between jazz lovers and younger people.
AAJ: Is Oye Live indicative of your direction for the future?
MZ: I see Oye and the Rhythm Collective as something that means a lot to me; something I wanted to get documented and out there. But I can't really say that it is indicative of a particular direction I make. The next thing I'm working on is a project called Identities are Changeable: Tales from the Diaspora. The whole project is inspired on a series of interviews I conducted with New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. I asked them questions related to their national Identity and about how they felt being both from New York and Puerto Rico. I then edited the content and wrote a series compositions around the audio and video from the interviews. We are planning to go into the studio in January of next year to record this, so the record should be available sometime in 2014.
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.