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Miguel Zenón: What it means to be Nuyorican

Publication: Star-Ledger
Author: Tad Hendrickson
Date: February 3, 2012

Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón’s six albums balance jazz and Puerto Rican folk traditions with modern innovation in imaginative ways that have been universally acclaimed. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008, and “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook” (2011) earned him his most recent Grammy nomination.

This Saturday, he marks another milestone with the world premiere of “Puerto Rico Nació en Mi: Tales from the Diaspora” at Montclair State University. Whereas his last album was a large ensemble tribute to five great Puerto Rican composers, the Puerto Rico-born, New York-based Zenón uses another large ensemble to explore how Puerto Ricans and their children define themselves.

“The project was born out of the idea of digging deeper into the concept of Puerto Ricans (coming) to New York City; some people call them Nuyoricans,” says Zenón, 35, who released his first album as a leader in 2002. “It started with me reading about it in a couple of books and personal experiences I’ve had in New York. The idea was to see how they felt about their identity, whether they felt like Puerto Ricans or like a New Yorker.”

Zenón culled specific themes from the video and audio clips he recorded during interviews, and these will be part of the multifaceted performance thanks to video artist David Dempewolf, who also will add his impressionistic imagery. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 3rd, 2012 — 01:52pm

Pianist Joey Calderazzo an influential sideman with Branford Marsalis

Publication: TimesUnion.com
Author: R.J. LeDuke
Date: February 1, 2012

Playing piano with Branford Marsalis, one of jazz music’s select saxophonists, has its requisite challenges, even beyond the on-the-fly improvisational nature of jazz that forces musicians to stay on their toes. Marsalis is one of those who brings the heat every night.

Pianist Joey Calderazzo has been an integral part of the Branford Marsalis Quartet for about 11 years, adding his distinct brand of creativity and energy to the exciting group sound. But melding with a powerful and dynamic tenor sax force isn’t new to the pianist. Prior to that gig, he spent a similar length of time with Michael Brecker, the most influential saxophonist since John Coltrane.

Calderazzo, who calls Marsalis his closest friend, is part of a stellar musical team that will be on display Friday night at Proctors in Schenectady. It will be a special night for fans, who will get to hear the two play in a duet setting as a warm-up to a performance by the full quartet, with Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 2nd, 2012 — 01:36pm

Editor’s Picks – Best CDs of 2011

Publication: Latin Jazz Network
Date: February 2, 2012
Author: Danilo Navas

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis Music – USA)

Being a recipient of the coveted MacArthur Fellowship has given Miguel Zenón the freedom to pursue great projects. Alma Adentro is an extraordinary exploration of the Puerto Rican Songbook. The true soul of a nation reflected in its musical creations. The result has invaluable quality. Variations on a theme that are rooted in the tradition, elevating the standards to new musical heights.

To see Danilo’s other picks for the best of 2011, please visit the Latin Jazz Network website. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 2nd, 2012 — 12:38pm

Branford Marsalis will be in good company Friday night at Proctors

Publication: The Saratogian
Date: February 2, 2012
Author: Phil Drew

SCHENECTADY — The art of collaboration in jazz is a delicate thing. The right combination of performers can make all the difference — not just in the who, but in the how.

Noted Grammy-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis is a case in point. His performance Friday night at Proctors Theatre will mark his first appearance in the region in several years, and it will feature both the familiar Branford Marsalis Quartet and a newer duet with pianist Joey Calderazzo.

In 1998, the delicate balance of the quartet was briefly disrupted by the sudden death of pianist Kenny Kirkland. His subsequent replacement by Calderazzo was a seamless transition for the foursome, which also includes bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff “Train” Watts. That temporary imbalance opened Marsalis’ eyes to new possibilities.

“To me, my favorite jazz musicians are like good talk-show radio hosts,” Marsalis said. “A good talk-show host has to know a little bit about a lot of things and be able to talk about them with some knowledge. Over the years, Joey has developed. He knows all the modern stuff. He’s also fluent with the classics, with Brahms and Schumann. It shows in the |lyricism of the songs he writes. We have so many options in how we play now.” Read more »

The Marsalis family: The Times-Picayune covers 175 years of New Orleans history

Publication: The Times-Picayune
Date: February 1, 2012
Author: Keith Spera

In a city known for musical families, few have affected the jazz community in New Orleans and beyond as greatly as the Marsalis clan. As a fluent pianist and composer, patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. has gigged with Al Hirt’s band and Bob French’s Storyville Jazz Band, led his own groups and released his own albums.

As a music educator, he taught at Xavier University, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Virginia Commonwealth University. His students included Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard, Irvin Mayfield and Donald Harrison Jr.

In 1989, he returned to New Orleans from Virginia to establish the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans. He encouraged his students to perform at local nightclubs, simultaneously gaining experience and infusing the scene with fresh talent. He continues to perform most Friday nights at Snug Harbor.

Four of his and wife Dolores’ six sons are professional musicians.

Branford Marsalis, a saxophonist with an especially modernist approach, served as the bandleader on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and recorded and performed with the pop star Sting, among many others. He founded a jazz record label, Marsalis Music, and now lives in North Carolina. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 1st, 2012 — 02:48pm

Marsalis headlines CSO's next season

Publication: Cincinnati.com
Author: Janelle Gelfand
Date: January 27, 2012

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will continue its unprecedented artistic leadership arrangement in its 2012-13 season, in which a trio of musical giants will oversee its programs. Former Tonight Show bandleader Branford Marsalis and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon will join conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos as creative directors, each leading their own series.

And making her overdue Cincinnati debut, opera diva Renée Fleming will perform a gala opening concert to launch the season on Sept. 18.

Next season will be the orchestra’s last in Music Hall before the 138-year-old building undergoes a 16-month revitalization. In addition, the orchestra continues its search for a new music director. The 117th season will bring back music director laureate Paavo Järvi, who conducts in January for the first time since his tenure ended with a sold-out concert last May 2013.

Concertgoers can expect a starry lineup of guest artists, including renowned violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham and Sarah Chang; pianists André Watts, Yefim Bronfman and Garrick Ohlsson and the virtuoso Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Profoundly deaf since age 12, she “hears” music with her whole body.

Legendary violinist Pinchas Zukerman will perform double duty, conducting and performing music by Beethoven, Schoenberg and Mendelssohn, when he returns in February 2013.

Among the premieres, the season has Higdon’s “All Things Majestic,” a multimedia performance accompanied by historic images of Music Hall and Cincinnati in celebration of the city’s 225th anniversary. Other premieres are a newly commissioned work by Chinese-American composer Zhou Tian, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4, Strands, a CSO co-commission.

Spanish maestro Frühbeck will also conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, the Cincinnati Boychoir and the Women of the May Festival Chorus (Oct. 4 and 6).

Several maestros – and a maestra – who have made an impression have been invited back next season.

In the Masterworks Series, French conductor Louis Langrée will return for a pair of weekends in November. The first will include Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring rising talent Cédric Tiberghien, and Franck’s Symphony in D Minor. A second program will pair Schoenberg’s “A Survivor from Warsaw” with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral.”

Italian maestro Roberto Abbado will return in April to lead Strauss’ “Alpine” Symphony and Mozart’s glorious Piano Concerto No. 24 with pianist Lars Vogt (April 12-13 2013).

Marsalis, saxophonist, bandleader and member of the famed New Orleans family of jazz, will direct the five-concert Ascent Series. He will also appear as alto saxophone soloist in the “Tallahatchie Concerto” by Jacob Ter Veldhuis, a high-intensity piece to be conducted by Andrey Boreyko (Nov. 30-Dec. 1). Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 30th, 2012 — 11:35am

Branford Marsalis brings mirth and melancholy to the Schermerhorn

Publication: ArtNowNashville.com
Author: Ron Wynn
Date: January 25, 2012

Saxophonist, bandleader and composer Branford Marsalis’ writing and playing has become steadily more adventurous and challenging since he chose to concentrate on his quartet in the late ’90s. Friday night at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, he gave a packed house ample example of how much he’s moved beyond the emulative fare that was his specialty when he made his debut as young player with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1980.

The evening’s program was divided into a duet segment – with Marsalis (soprano and tenor sax) and pianist Joey Calderazzo – and a quartet portion that added bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. In both sets, the music was always extensive and invigorating. It might have gotten a bit too unconventional for those preferring basic 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures and simple songs forms. The Marsalis duo and quartet pieces never veered into the avant-garde, but there were pieces that lasted between 15 and 20 minutes. Some had multiple sections, and most weren’t variations on familiar melodies. Even when they did perform traditional parts of the jazz canon, the Marsalis ensemble did them in a manner that spotlighted both the individual member’s brilliance and group’s desire to keep stretching the music’s fabric. Read more »

In Performance: The Branford Marsalis Quartet

Publication: The Musical Box 
Author: Walter Tunis
Date: January 20, 2012

Some artists have a knack for song titles. Others, like the members of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, prefer taking them for test drives first and then hammering them into shape, just as they would with the actual composition.

Last night, before a full house at the Grand Theatre, Marsalis tried out a few new titles during a set made up largely of works to be featured on an upcoming quartet recording. The set-opening The Mighty Sword, a rugged bit of percussive swing that had pianist/composer Joey Calderazzo feeding off the youthful drive of drummer Jason Faulkner (and vice versa), was initially titled Twister. Marsalis said bassist Eric Revis vetoed that name.

Similarly, the title to the saxophonist’s own Whiplash didn’t seem to thrill the band, even though the music obviously did. It started as a lean, piano-less trio romp that embraced the speed and danger element of a thrill park ride before Calderazzo re-entered. Faulkner brought the tune home with a solo fortified by the tireless stamina of an Olympian. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 23rd, 2012 — 01:06pm

Interview with Grammy-winning musician Branford Marsalis

Publication: Nashville Examiner
Author: Sterling Whitaker
Date: January 19, 2012

To listen to Branford’s interview with Sterling Whitaker, please visit the Examiner’s site here.

Branford Marsalis is one of the most celebrated musicians of his generation. In a three-decade career the saxophonist has worked with artists as diverse as Sting, Miles Davis and Harry Connick Jr., led his own bands, served as the bandleader on The Tonight Show, appeared in films and as a soloist with symphonies internationally. He is a Grammy winner and Tony nominee, and also works tirelessly as a music educator.

  Marsalis’ most recent album is Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, a duo effort with pianist Joey Calderazzo. Marsalis will perform in concert on Friday, January 20 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, showcasing songs from that album as well as quartet material spanning the range of his career.

Branford Marsalis spoke to Examiner.com about Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, his compositional process, why live music should not require click tracks, the degrading of pop music and television, his stint on The Tonight Show and much more in the following exclusive interview. What follows are excerpts from a longer interview; to listen to the entire audio interview, click on the video at left.

Thanks to Branford Marsalis, and to Laurie Davis at the Nashville Symphony for arranging this interview.
 
Let’s talk about Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. Where does that title come from?

There’s a Keats poem, and the title was “Of Mirth and …” something. Mirth and madness or something like that. So the more I listened to the record, the more I realized that we had a couple of songs that were quite mirthful, and a number of songs that were quite lachrymose. So I sent out an email blast to my friends saying, “I’m trying to get the name of a title together, and it’s gonna be Songs of Mirth, and I need a word that rings with melancholy. And lachrymose doesn’t work, because ‘lachrymosity’ is just too long. That doesn’t work.”

So my wife writes back, “What about ‘melancholy?’” And I said, “Well, no, I don’t want melancholy, that’s why I said I need a word that kind of rhymes with melancholy.” And she goes, “Well, melancholy seems fine to me.” I said, “Yeah, okay, great.” And the more I thought about it and all these other suggestions came in, melancholy just kept kicking me in the teeth. So I said, “Well, all right … mirth and melancholy.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 20th, 2012 — 04:20pm

Life on Marsalis: Jazz great Branford Marsalis forges ahead in multiple fields

Publication: Nashville Scene
Author: Ron Wynn
Date: January 19, 2012

Saxophonist, composer and bandleader Branford Marsalis’ accomplishments surpass those of almost any other player in his generation. The oldest sibling from the famous New Orleans musical family that also includes Wynton, Jason, Delfeayo, Ellis III and pianist father Ellis, Branford’s shown a brilliance on tenor, soprano and alto that has earned him three Grammys and an NEA Jazz Masters award. He’s also been highly praised for impressive contributions to Broadway plays (a 2010 Drama Desk award and a 2010 Tony nomination for musical scores) and films, as well as extensive appearances with symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles, plus several  classical recording sessions.

But when he returns to the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall Friday night for a concert that will feature duo and quartet performances, he’ll be focusing on the fiery, thematically diverse and engaging jazz that’s been his hallmark over the lengthy history of his current ensemble. In fact, emotional satisfaction remains more a point of emphasis than technical proficiency, even though he’s certainly among the premier modern saxophone soloists. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 19th, 2012 — 03:16pm