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Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music 2011)

Publication: Latin Jazz Network
Author: Raul da Gama
Date: February 26, 2012

That Miguel Zenón has been recognized as one of the most exciting young alto saxophonists to break into the scene has been known for several years now. So it should come as no surprise when he released a third album, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, in a loosely constructed trilogy that also included Jibaro (2004) and Esta Plena (2009). While these are all truly fine albums, this last one breaks the mould in both style and substance. First there is the sophisticated playing by the young saxophonist; something that is reflected in the gumption of his viscous ideas that devolve into fires that are fanned by both the jazz and Latin idioms. These cover everything from binary, to secondary and tertiary rhythms, fraught with electrifying, complex structures and there is the small matter of polyphony that turns simple melodies into something so exquisite and breathtaking that a shocking gasp seems to be a regular response solo after solo—from saxophone and piano.

Then there is the inspired arrangements of reeds that penetrate the near impervious fabric of the melodies like the tones of water colours spreading not only on the paper score, but on the entire musical canvas as well. The ingenuity of Guillermo Klein is the most important reason for this—if not the only reason for this. Yet this is not a matter of who came up with the idea of such an imaginative underscore, but how well the two men have articulated the invention. And this is why it is important to posit that both artists have played a role in the magnificent score no matter that Zenón is leading the charge. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 27th, 2012 — 11:28am

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo To Perform At The Hobby Center

Publication: MusicDoingGood.org
Date: February 15, 2012

NEA Jazz Master, saxophonist and nine-time Grammy® Award Winner Branford Marsalis joins pianist Joey Calderazzo live, on-stage on March 23, 2012, 8 pm at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Zilkha Hall, 800 Bagby St., 77002. The concert is comprised of selections from their latest CD release, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. This performance is one in a series of four benefit concerts for Music Doing Good in Schools, an innovative, interdisciplinary, musical arts, after-school enrichment program for students ages 7 to 18 who want to take their skills to a higher level. Ticket proceeds also go to support Music Doing Good’s Musical Instrument Aid and Scholarship Fund.

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo have mesmerized audiences with their passionate and profound collaboration since the release of their latest album, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (© Marsalis Music, 2011). Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 21st, 2012 — 11:46am

MacArthur genius Zenón takes on jazz genius Parker

Publication: Chicago Tribune
Author: Howard Reich
Date: February 20, 2012

Outside of Louis Armstrong, perhaps no musician commands greater reverence among jazz devotees than Charlie Parker. His virtuosity as alto saxophonist, brilliance as improviser and genius as a creator of bebop place him in the pantheon of jazz originals — alongside icons such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Jelly Roll Morton.

Which makes Friday night’s concert by the Chicago Jazz Ensemble — “Ornithology: The Music of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker” — a moment of both possibility and peril. No musician takes lightly the prospect of performing an evening of Bird’s music, due to its inherent technical and artistic hurdles. Yet the musicians who can hold their own in this repertoire emerge as victors, proving that they can address some of the most daunting work ever conceived in jazz.

For this program, CJE artistic director Dana Hall has engaged a singular alto saxophonist who, like Bird, also has looked relentlessly forward in every facet of his art: Miguel Zenón. Winner of a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, or “genius grant,” Zenón has been fearless in bringing his Puerto Rican heritage to bear on his jazz compositions and improvisations, particularly in albums such as “Alma Adentro” (the best jazz release of 2011) and “Esta Plena” (an important release in 2009).Yet even Zenón approaches Friday’s event with eyes (and ears) wide open.

Charlie Parker is my greatest inspiration as a saxophone player — anything that involves him entails a large amount of respect,” says Zenón, 35. “You’ve got to be careful how you approach it. … But I’m not going to try to emulate what he played. He’s Charlie Parker, and I’m me.” Read more »

Road Trip! Branford Marsalis + Joey Calderazzo at the Portland Jazz Festival

Publication: Seattle Weekly Blog
Author: Chris Kornelis
Date: February 15, 2012

Last year, Branford Marsalis told Seattle Weekly about “The Problem With Jazz”: why old records sound better than new ones, why the genre feels too much like an exclusive club, and how there’s so little good jazz these days that when he hears something good, “it shocks me.” The interview went viral, sparking myriad Internet debates. Read more »

LIVE: Branford Marsalis (Duo + Quartet) at Proctors, 2/3/12

Publication: Nippertown!
Author: J Hunter
Date: February 3, 2012

I hadn’t known this was an issue until it was pointed out to me by a musician whose opinion (and playing) I deeply respect. Essentially, it boils down to a very simple question: What is the deal with Branford Marsalis when he plays tenor saxophone? When Marsalis plays soprano sax, he is the epitome of precision and expression; however, when he plays tenor he just… well… honks. I closely observed this situation over two sets at Proctors last Friday night. (Well, one-and-a-half sets, if we’re going to be accurate.)

The show was split up between an opening series of duets between Branford and pianist Joey Calderazzo, and a full-band set with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. The duets came from “Songs of Mirth & Melancholy” (Marsalis Music, 2011), which Marsalis and Calderazzo recorded after seeing the potential of such a disc during an impromptu duo show at the Newport Jazz Festival. Although we only heard four tunes before the pair declared an intermission, that relatively short performance displayed the contrast between the thrilling intimacy of the Melancholy material and the full-bore nastiness of the Branford Quartet. It also displayed the skin-tight chemistry Marsalis and Calderazzo share; he’s got that with all his band members, but the relationship between leader and pianist was really under the microscope in this no-frills (and no-safety-net) setting.

After a quick reminiscence by Marsalis on the last time he played Proctors (eight years ago, when the Marsalis Family was on tour), the duo slipped into “La Valse Kendall,” a Calderazzo original that is equal parts classical and jazz, and could make you cry uncontrollably when heard at the right moment. Marsalis’ soprano went right for your soul and did its best to tear the sucker out by the roots, while Calderazzo’s immaculate precision added a real sense of occasion to the piece. Then they switched to Calderazzo’s stride-rich “One Way,” and Marsalis began the first series of honking sounds on tenor. Okay, he wasn’t REALLY honking; what he played was not only damn good, it was entirely appropriate to the piece and the era it recalled. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 13th, 2012 — 03:22pm

Grammy Preview: The Best Albums of 2011 From Top to Bottom

Publication: Huffington Post
Author: Michael Giltz
Date: February 10, 2012

Michael included Songs of Mirth and Melancholy from Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo in his best of 2011 list. Follow the link to check out his other choices.

6. WYNTON MARSALIS AND ERIC CLAPTON Play the Blues / BRANFORD MARSALIS AND JOEY CALDARAZZO Songs of Mirth And Melancholy (trad jazz) Surely the Marsalis brothers hate having all their work linked. Oh well. Wynton has found new purpose and a sense of joy via collaborations with the likes of Willie Nelson and now Clapton. Their jam session brings out the best in both of them. (Who knew “Layla” would prove so malleable?) And does anyone in jazz have a more gorgeous tone that Branford? For sheer sonic beauty, it’s the best since Getz. HIs album is also a collaboration and it leans more heavily on melancholy than mirth. Great stuff. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 13th, 2012 — 12:49pm

American Stories of Mixed Identity, Explored Through Mixed Media

Publication: The New York Times
Author: Ben Ratliff
Date: February 7, 2012

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — It’s been a while since the saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón has written a tune that wasn’t about something bigger than itself. Generally, he works without words or straight narrative — his medium is the small-to-medium-size jazz group — but he makes his music embody something: a process, a lesson, an idea.

Mr. Zenón was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and usually his bigger thoughts have arrived in the form of roots-minded albums, like his three records about aspects of his island’s musical culture: “Jíbaro” (2005), about the song form of back-country troubadours; “Esta Plena” (2009), about his island’s voice-and-percussion tradition; and “Alma Adentro” (2011), about Puerto Rico’s 20th-century standards.

On Saturday night at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University he took the next organizational and conceptual step forward into a 90-minute multimedia work, “Puerto Rico Nació en Mi: Tales From the Diaspora.”

Performed for the first time, it involved his quartet, a 12-piece big band and video backdrop; it was commissioned by Peak Performances, Montclair State’s performing arts series. Mr. Zenón hasn’t written for big band before, or done the kind of deep cross-media collaboration going on here, between his music and the work of the video artist David Dempewolf. (Mr. Dempewolf worked on another jazz-related piece several years ago, Jason Moran’s “In My Mind.”) But already the project seems about as good as it could reasonably be in concept and execution. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 8th, 2012 — 11:03am

Musician-scholar Miguel Zenón weaves Puerto Rican identity with jazz

Publication: NBC Latino
Author: Nina Terrero
Date: February 3, 2012

It’s early in the morning, just days before the world premiere of a special project that Latin jazz saxophonist/composer Miguel Zenón lovingly calls his “baby.” Chatting moments before heading off to rehearsal for “Puerto Rico Nació: Tales from the Diaspora” (which will be presented this weekend at Montclair State University in New Jersey), Zenón says that his passion project embodies the notion of identity “inspired by the Puerto Rican experience in the United States, and especially New York City.”

At 35-years-old, Zenón is regarded one of the most influential Latin jazz musicians of his generation. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 8th, 2012 — 11:04am

Branford Marsalis @ Proctors, 2/3/12

Publication: Times Union Arts Talk Blog
Author: Michael Eck
Date: February 4, 2012

There was some big listening going on at Proctors Friday night, onstage and off.

Naturally, the audience, which had paid its money, had its ears on, but saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo had their giant ears on.

In the opening number of the duo’s opening set, Marsalis pushed his soprano against Calderazzo’s clouds of sound. The shape of the melody recalled Jewish themes. The harmony, spare and open, came from the American south. And the result sounded like heaven.

Marsalis and his longtime cohort released a duo album last year, and they culled tunes like the above, “La Valse Kendall,” and “The Bard Lachrymose” from that disc.

On the second number (“One Way”) Marsalis unleashed his robust tenor tone, and he continued to bounce back and forth between the two horns throughout the evening.

The gentlemen broke after 40 minutes and then brought out the full Marsalis Quartet for a 70-minute set that was often stunning, sometimes mesmerizing and always real.

Instantly the rhythm section was cracking, with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jason Faulker working overtime behind Calderazzo’s now pumping piano. But this is a band that understands dynamics and together they rode the swells, heartbeats and car crashes that make up a great night of jazz. Marsalis’ sweet soprano release, for example, at the end of Revis’ “Maestra” was a breath of surrender. Wow. Read more »

Jazz review: Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, musical soulmates, fill Spivey Hall with quiet beauty

Publication: ArtsCriticATL.com
Author: Jon Ross
Date: January 22, 2012

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis takes his time. During his Saturday concert with pianist Joey Calderazzo at Spivey Hall, Marsalis’ downshifted speed applied to both the programming — languid ballads peppered with occasional spunkier numbers — and his solos, careful expressions of storytelling that progressed not in a haste of notes but by deliberate syncopations and thoughtful sequences. Marsalis, of course, adapts his style on the soprano and tenor saxophones to each performance situation, and in this setting, Calderazzo’s light hand and rubato playing usually called for a restrained attack.

While Calderazzo played a walking bass line with his left hand most of the time, performing without a true time-keeping bass player allowed the duo to bleed tempo out of the tunes, to stop and start, and generally to stretch out musically. Such tunes as “La Valse Kendall” and “The Bard Lachrymose” set the tone for the evening, but hints of the pair’s raw power came forward in “One Way,” with a bubbly, R&B piano accompaniment under an aggressive saxophone melody. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 7th, 2012 — 12:21pm