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Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro

Date: October 16, 2011
Publication: ABC’s The Weekend Planet

A highly creative but deeply respectful Miguel Zenón instrumentally explores songs that have had “a special and lasting effect on me”. He hails their authors as “the George Gershwins, Cole Porters and Jerome Kerns of Puerto Rican song.”

In 2011 Miguel Zenón is 34, lives in New York and is one of jazz’s most highly regarded alto saxophonists. When the Puerto Rican virtuoso first heard his new album’s songs he was a boy in a housing project in San Juan. 

On Alma Adentro (it means Deep in the Soul) Zenón interprets two pieces each, from five composers: Bobby Capó, Tite Curet Alonso, Pedro Flores, Rafael Hernández, and Sylvia Rexach. With each composer, Zenón arranges one song in “a more conservative way, staying closer to the original” and the other “with a more modern approach, taking more chances.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 3rd, 2011 — 02:31pm

Music from on high: How Branford Marsalis composed the moving sounds of Broadway's 'The Mountaintop'

Publication: New York Daily News
By: Greg Thomas
Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011

“The Mountaintop,” in a 16-week Broadway run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, has gotten attention for the star power of the lead actors — Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett — and for the portrayal of a more human, less iconic side of Martin Luther King Jr.’s personality.

According to the play’s composer, the saxophonist, bandleader and record label founder Branford Marsalis, that’s the way it should be.

“Here’s a good metaphor,” he proposes. “We had a talk with some students from the Brooklyn High School for the Arts after one of the previews. And Samuel Jackson came onstage, Angela Bassett came on, and the playwright Katori Hall came on. The kids didn’t ask me anything. That’s the apt metaphor because the music serves the purpose of accentuation or complement.

“Weak music can’t really kill a play. Weak acting can destroy a play, regardless of how good the music is,” Marsalis says.

“For instance, take Prokofiev’s score to the ballet based on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ It’s a fantastic piece of music, and a great ballet. If you put the ballet out there and they’re tripping all over themselves and dancing like crap, nobody’s going to say, ‘That ballet really sucked, but the music was really good.’ They’re going to say, ‘That ballet sucked — period.’ “

In his first Broadway role, Jackson acts the part of Dr. King after he gave the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Jackson was a student at Morehouse College, King’s alma mater, at the time. He served as an usher at King’s funeral and flew to Memphis right after to march with the black sanitation workers on whose behalf King was fighting for a livable wage.

Bassett is a mysterious chambermaid named Camae. She gives a powerful soliloquy at the close of the play that Marsalis uses to give a momentary feel of a musical, in which the music and narration occur simultaneously. The show conjures video images of a future King never would see.

Marsalis based the ensemble music — bass, drums and saxophone — on Bassett’s cadence.

“The music starts off slow and picks up speed, and gets quicker and quicker, and her cadence gets faster and faster, and the images come faster and faster,” he says. “It’s a good effect.”

Cadence, which in Western music refers to characteristic rhythmic patterns, is an important concept that Marsalis uses to explain the difference between Hall’s approach as a playwright and August Wilson’s. The late Wilson is notable for his cycle of plays that dramatize black American life in the 20th century.
Read more »

Submitted by Ben on October 24th, 2011 — 09:54am

A Conversation with Branford Marsalis

Publication: Washingtonian
Author: Sriram Gopal
Date: October 13, 2011

As the eldest son of jazz’s first family, Branford Marsalis is accustomed to finding ways to distinguish himself from other musicians. When the saxophonist shared a bill with trumpeter Terrence Blanchard’s band at the Kennedy Center earlier this year, Marsalis’s subjective approach to harmony and meter set him apart from the more obvious groove of Blanchard’s band. While there were some transcendent moments during his set, there were also stretches that seemed impenetrable, at least to this reviewer. But the notoriously outspoken Marsalis says that this doesn’t bother him in the least, because the music requires a kind of listening with which practiced ears are often unfamiliar. In other words, it’s designed for people, not experts. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 14th, 2011 — 02:00pm

Interview with Branford Marsalis: Fearless lieder

Publication: Capital Bop
Author: Giovanni Russonello
Date: October 11, 2011

Branford Marsalis conveys his thoughts in conversation much as he does as a saxophonist. New ideas emerge with steady self-assurance, boldly and unceasingly. When he pauses he does it for emphasis – not because he has lost his train of thought or needs to reorient himself. If the tabloids could be bothered to expound on the scandals of the jazz world, Marsalis might be their go-to guy for headline-grabbing quotes. He’s called avant-garde legend Cecil Taylor’s demands on his audience “self-indulgent bullshit;” opined that “students today are completely full of shit,” overly coddled and under-criticized; and recently said of contemporary jazz, “There’s so little of it that’s actually good that when it’s good, it shocks me.” Marsalis’ hard-nosed perspective comes from decades spent as one of the most respected jazz saxophonists around, but it’s colored by his 10 years in the soap opera of American popular culture, first as a star in Sting’s touring band, then as musical director of the Tonight Show.

For more than 15 years now, Marsalis has focused once again on jazz, releasing a bevy of stellar post-bop albums and founding his own label, Marsalis Music. His latest record, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, a duet with pianist and longtime accomplice Joey Calderazzo, explores the alternately disconsolate and ecstatic world of German classical folk music, or lieder. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 12th, 2011 — 11:49am

Alma Adentro, Miguel Zenón's new vision for Puerto Rican standards

Publication: State of the Arts, Minnesota Public Radio
Author: David Cazares
Date: September 29, 2011

For the cover photo of his latest CD, the alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón picked a stirring three-decades-old image shot by New York Times writer David Gonzalez. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 30th, 2011 — 02:54pm

Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (2011)

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan McClenaghan
Date: August 24, 2011

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.  Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 27th, 2011 — 11:20am

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (2011)

Publication:   Exystence
Date: September 13, 2011

 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 the dots between music from his native Panama and jazz, and alto saxophone star Miguel Zenón is doing the same thing for Puerto Rico. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 27th, 2011 — 10:10am

Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro

Publication: Financial Times
Writer: Mike Hobart
Date: September 24, 2011

 A studio-produced album from the Puerto Rican saxophonist

The pure-toned alto saxophonist captures the romance of his Puerto Rican heritage with clean cadenzas and the sway of a 10-piece wind ensemble – the album is subtitled The Puerto Rican Songbook.

The core pulse is contemporary modern, fuelled by a cracking rhythm section, but the swirl of flutes, woodwind and horns adds authenticity as well as textures, and is impressively integrated into the whole – the studio-produced album was live recorded. Zenón remains the focus, surging through the orchestral layers and burning to a climax.

Submitted by Courtney on September 26th, 2011 — 10:56am

Branford on Bay Area's 7Live

Watch Branford Marsalis interviewed on 7Live and discuss how growing up in New Orleans prepared him for a variety of musical projects later in life.

Submitted by Courtney on September 26th, 2011 — 08:12am

Sax great brings quartet to Yoshi's in SF

Publication: KTVU.com
Date: September 22, 2011

One of the most influential saxophone players of his generation returns to the Bay Area for an extended run of performances at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Grammy award-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis has made a career out of ably exploring a number of different musical avenues ranging from swinging straight-ahead sounds to classical to pop and hip-hop. The oldest son of noted New Orleans pianist Ellis Marsalis, Branford and his trumpet-playing brother Wynton are often credited with the early ‘80s resurgence of interest in the traditional hard-bop style of such legends as Cannonball Adderley and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 23rd, 2011 — 08:39am