Miguel Zenón News

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

Saxophonist Miguel Zenón in peak form

Publication: Chicago Tribune
Author: Howard Reich
Date: April 13, 2012

The ingeniously paced, handsomely played set that alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón offered Thursday night at the Jazz Showcase very nearly summed up the man’s appeal in small-group settings.

For if Zenón had affirmed has ability to hold his own in an orchestral setting last February, when he fronted the Chicago Jazz Ensemble at the Harris Theater, this time he led his quartet in expansive performances of both new and familiar repertoire. Virtually every piece in his first set emerged a model of pacing and architectural clarity, themes appearing and re-appearing at carefully chosen moments, instruments entering and exiting the ensemble texture for maximum dramatic effect. Yet, somehow, the music sounded free and spontaneous while conveying unmistakable structure and form.

Not surprisingly, the heart of the set was built on scores from Zenón’s most recent recording, “Alma Adentro,” in which Zenón re-imagined classic popular songs of his Puerto Rican heritage through the prism of jazz improvisation. As strong as this music sounded on disc, however, in some ways it proved still more effective in this performance, thanks largely to the bloom of Zenón’s tone in full-throated passages and the delicacy of his sound elsewhere. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 17th, 2012 — 09:08am

Miguel Zenón and Alma Adentro receive nods from the JJA

The Jazz Journalists Association announced their nominations for the 2012 JJA Jazz Awards today, winners to be announced at the June 20 awards party at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York. The nominations recognize Miguel Zenón’s 2011 release Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook in several ways.

Miguel is nominated for Alto Saxophonist of the Year, Alma Adentro is nominated for Record of the Year, and the album’s liner notes written by A.G. Quintero-Rivera (available online here) were nominated for Best Liner Notes of the Year.

Congrats to Miguel!

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 13th, 2012 — 02:49pm