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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 — 10:04am

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 — 11:21am

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 — 12:52pm

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 — 12:36pm

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 — 11:38am

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 — 01:48pm

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 — 10:35am

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 »