best of 2011

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 »

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

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

Miguel Zenón Tops Rhapsody Poll

Publication: Rhapsody.Com
Date: January 11, 2012

Miguel Zenón’s Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook earned the #4 spot for 2011’s jazz Record of the Year  in Rhapsody’s first annual Critics’ Poll, which included votes from over 120 national writers. Alma Adentro also topped the list as the Best Latin Album. 

For a full list of the winners and commentary regarding this year’s poll, please visit the Rhapsody.com blog. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 12th, 2012 — 11:26am

Alma Adentro featured in New York Times Popcast

Publication: New York Times
Date: December 28, 2011

Listen to this week’s New York Times Popcast for a discussion on 2011’s best in jazz. Miguel Zenón’s latest album, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook is featured. Direct link here.
  

Submitted by Courtney on December 29th, 2011 — 12:05pm

Miguel Zenón, The Puerto Rican Songbook

Publication: Voice of America’s Jazzbeat
Author: Diaa Bekheet
Date: December 26, 2011

To listen to Diaa Bekheet’s interview with Miguel Zenón, please visit the Voice of America website here.

One of the great jazz albums of 2011 is Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook. It’s a brilliant idea by acclaimed saxophonist Miguel Zenón to preserve the early 20th century’s jazz heritage of his native Puerto Rico. The album is modeled on The Great American Songbook, which features an entire century of American music from such masters as Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and others. Zenón follows the footsteps of such great American composers and songwriters to offer the jazz public some of the 20th century’s best songs that represent the sounds of Puerto Rico. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 27th, 2011 — 12:41pm

Went on a bender, wrote a year-ender (My best-of-2011 jazz lists)

Publication: Ottawa Citizen Jazzblog
Author: Peter Hum
Date: December 20, 2011

Top jazz CDs of 2011:

1. Milestone, Adam Cruz (Sunnyside)
2. When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Ambrose Akinmusire (Blue Note)
3. Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, Miguel Zenón (Marsalis Music)
4. A Night at the Village Vanguard, Bill Carrothers Trio (Pirouet)
5. Graylen Epicenter, David Binney (Mythology)
6. Waking Dreams, Chris Dingman (Between Worlds Music)
7. Lines of Oppression, Ari Hoenig (Naive)
8. Verge, David Braid (Independent)
9. Suno Suno, Rez Abassi’s Invocation (Enja)
10. James Farm, James Farm (Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, Eric Harland) (Nonesuch)

To read Peter’s picks for live performances, honourable mentions, piano-centric albums, Canadian jazz CDs, and noteworthy debut CDs, please visit his Jazzblog. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 21st, 2011 — 01:22pm

2011 jazz round-up

Publication: Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches
Author: Hank Shteamer
Date: December 19, 2011

To check out Hank’s full list of picks for the best jazz of 2011, visit his blog here.

1.Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)

As you can see from my 2011 jazz halftime report, published back in June, this one grabbed me early on. Now that the year is winding down, I’m happy to report that it didn’t let go. There’s no embeddable stream of this record, but I implore you to sample it here, especially the tracks “Endymion,” “Face on the Barroom Floor” and “La Valse Kendall.” When mentioning my interest in this album to friends, I’ve received a few raised eyebrows, which pains me. As I discuss in a Time Out NY preview of Marsalis January 9, 2012 “A Duo of Duos” gig at Jazz at Lincoln Center (during which he’ll perform with both Calderazzo and Harry Connick, Jr., the latter of whom won’t be singing), Marsalis’s celebrity still overshadows his art. It’s a trite point at this stage, but the prejudices persist: He’s the saxophone player your mom likes.

And I’m not trying to say that moms wouldn’t love Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. But what I am trying to say is that this is an extremely deep record. There’s so much grace and poetry to this session. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 20th, 2011 — 11:32am

Dan Bilawsky's Best Releases of 2011

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan Bilawsky
Date: December 18, 2011

Another year is in the books, but the music created and/or released during these twelve months is still around, continuing to serve as a reminder of jazz’s majesty. While some continue to complain that jazz is stagnant or at death’s door, the finest albums released in 2011 say otherwise. I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing approximately 170 recordings released in this calendar year, and the following list represents the best of the bunch.

Click here to see Dan’s picks, including Miguel Zenón’s Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook! Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 19th, 2011 — 11:15am

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 — 11:51am