alma adentro

Review: Rapturous Miguel Zenón performance at SFJazz

Publication: Mercury News
Author: Richard Scheinin
Date: June 1, 2013

When he is on his game — and he often is — alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón combines qualities of sheer romance, sanctified spirit and mathematical precision. In all of jazz, not too many players operate at his level. When his improvised solos really get moving, he rocks back on his heels and the notes just fly, like blizzards of diamonds. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on July 3rd, 2013 — 01:14pm

Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook Receives Latin Grammy Nomination

On September 25, 2012, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (LARAS) announced nominations for the XIII Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. Congrats to Miguel Zenón for his nomination! Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, Miguel’s collection of reinterpreted Puerto Rican standards, was nominated for Best Instrumental Album. Alma Adentro was also nominated during the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. The XIII Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards will be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and will be broadcast live on the Univision Network on Thursday, Nov. 15.

Submitted by Courtney on September 27th, 2012 — 03:02pm

He’s jazzed by sound of Puerto Rico

Publication: The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Kevin Joy
Date: April 18, 2012

New York musician Miguel Zenón has filtered the music of his Puerto Rican homeland through a jazz lens.

For his latest album, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, the 35-year-old alto saxophonist began with familiar music composed in the 1920s to the 1970s — cuts not quite anthemic but much ingrained in his native land.

“They’re a part of the culture in Puerto Rico,” said Zenón, who has a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston and a master’s from Manhattan School of Music in New York.

Though long enamored of jazz, he found that highlighting his roots held even more allure.

“As much as I like . . . (American standards), I didn’t feel as personally connected.”

Such a fusion has paid off for Zenón, whose Alma Adentro was deemed the best jazz album of 2011 by National Public Radio.

It came on the heels of a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship — the “genius grant” that provides $500,000 apiece to cutting-edge individuals in science and the arts.

Such credit “does make people notice you a little more,” he said.

More exposure will occur on Thursday, when Zenón performs with a quartet at the Wexner Center for the Arts as part of the 35th annual Ohio State University Jazz Festival.

He talked this week from New Orleans.

Q: With no prior warning about being given the MacArthur grant, how did you react to the initial phone call?

A: It was a surprise for me — very pleasant. In terms of what that’s done for me and my life and everything, aside from the obvious financial connotation, it definitely opened a lot of doors and brought a little more attention to what we’re doing.

It’s given me a lot of freedom with my time — to play with the people I want to play with, financing my own recordings and projects.

Q: How did you select and interpret fare for your latest album?

A: The approach in general was just to think about these songs the same way you’d think about the great American songbook and how that’s become an essential part of the jazz lexicon.

A lot of the . . . ( Adentro selections) were written at the same time, when all this Tin Pan Alley stuff was happening. I felt I had a personal connection with these songs I’ve been hearing since I was a kid — through my parents or just on the radio or playing in school.

Q: Did any one song have a particularly strong pull?

A: Definitely the title track. The composer, Sylvia Rexach — she’s a favorite of my mother.
My mom, I remember, . . . was always singing her songs in the house. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 19th, 2012 — 09:44am

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 — 10:28am

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 »

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

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

Nate Chinen's Favorite Releases of 2011: Sounds That Come From in the Head and on the Street

Publication: New York Times
Author: Nate Chinen
Date: December 15, 2011

MIGUEL ZENÓN “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook” (Marsalis Music) The dragonfly speed and lightness of Mr. Zenón’s alto saxophone playing is reason enough to love this meditation on the music of his homeland. So too is his liberal approach to the repertory, mostly classic boleros and ballads, furnished with woodwind orchestrations by Guillermo Klein.

To read the rest of Chinen’s picks, please visit the original article. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 16th, 2011 — 10:51am

Up for a Grammy award, Arturo O'Farrill still fights for eliminated Latin jazz category

Publication: New York Daily News
Author: Monika Fabian
Date: December 7, 2011

An outspoken critic of the Grammys’ controversial decision this year to eliminate 30 awards categories was graced with a nomination last week by the host organization, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).

“I’m extremely proud,” said bandleader and pianist Arturo O’Farrill, whose album “40 Acres and a Burro” has a bid for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

However, he still opposes the elimination of the Best Latin Jazz Album category, calling it “horrific.”

“To compete with big, big, big names is very healthy, but it doesn’t bode well for us [Latin jazz musicians],” said O’Farrill, winner of the 2008 Best Latin Jazz Album award and a four-time nominee.

“A lot of what happens is brand awareness,” he added. “It would be an amazing vindication of our artistic integrity and the academy’s position of it leveling the playing field if any of the Latinos had a real shot at winning.”

Also competing for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album — the only category in which Hispanic artists were nominated that did not involve Latino/Mexican/World Music — is Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who saw in the academy’s restructuring a chance for Latin artists to gain more widespread jazz cred. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 8th, 2011 — 11:14am

NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums Of 2011: Complete List

Publication: NPR.org
Date: December 5, 2011

The title of the article says it all- Miguel Zenón’s Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook is listed as one of NPR’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2011. Check out the full list here.

Submitted by Courtney on December 6th, 2011 — 09:16am