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Miguel Zenón's unique Latin-jazz fusion
Publication: Sign On San Diego
Author: George Varga
Date: November 15, 2011
A member of the acclaimed SF Jazz Collective and the 2008 recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” San Juan-born saxophonist Miguel Zenón is blazing new trails. His rich fusion of jazz and such homegrown Puerto Rican styles as jibaro, plena and bomba is as ingenious as it infectious. Stepped in all of these musical traditions, he is able to dig deeper to make new connections without diluting any of the styles from which he draws.
Now 34, Zenón came to the United States to study at the Berklee College of Music. After earning a masters in saxophone performance from the Manhattan School of Music in 2001, he began to play with bass great Charlie Haden, percussionist Ray Baretto and fellow saxophonist David Sanchez.
Zenón has released six albums as a band leader to date and is a permanent faculty member at the New England Conservatory of Music. His saxophone work ad his composing both offer an absorbing mix of passion and precision, power and finesse, deep thought and deep feeling. San Diegans may recall his excellent playing on “Spheres of Influence,” the terrific 2006 album by former North County trumpeter Brian Lynch.
Now on tour to promote his absorbing new album, “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook,” one of the year’s best Latin-jazz releases, Zenón is leading a combustible band that is firing on all cylinders. Their performance Thursday at The Loft@UCSD, an intimate venue that offers audiences an up-close musical experience, should be a memorable one.