Miguel Zenon
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Miguel Zenon


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"CONCERT REVIEW: Plena Jazz Fusion"

Earlier this month, a crowd of jazz and plena enthusiasts packed the tight confines of the Jazz
Gallery in TriBeCa to witness a new kind of fusion.Led by saxophonist and recent MacArthur Foundation
Genius Grant winner Miguel Zenón, a band of four jazz instrumentalists and three plena percussionistsvocalists
transported the audience into a different world.

"Esta Plena," a kind of jazz-plena symphony in 10 movements, fused stirring improvisational jazz with
the choral lyricism of percussion-driven plenas, telling the story of a 21st century island bridge between
New York and Puerto Rico. Zenon's emotional but technically proficient wailing would give way to the
steady thumping of Tito Matos, who wielded his requinto, a tambourine-like instrument, like it was a magic

"He wrote all the music, but I realized after a while that he was using me as a vehicle to tell the story,"
said Matos, who met Zenón several years ago through a mutual friend, saxophonist David Sánchez.
"But everything was a challenge. I'm a street-corner singer and I don't know how to read music or
reach a perfect pitch with such complex arrangements."

Zenón's conceptual approach was mathematical: Although the typical plena rhythm is 4/4, he wrote
rhythms, harmonies and melodies based on 3 (coincidentally, that's the number of percussionists, or
panderos, accompanying the jazz band). But the subtle structure of "Esta Plena" is no clue to the sense
of elation created by the songs.

Backed by some of his longtime jazz collaborators, Luis Perdomo on piano, Hans Glawischnig on
bass and Henry Cole on drums, Zenón mesmerized the audience with such instrumentals as "Villa
Palmeras" and "Residencial Llorens Torres," tributes to the neighborhoods where plena is practiced.
The songs with vocals, like "Óyelo," "Pandero y Pagode" (which was actually played as a Brazilian
samba) and the moving "Que Será de Puerto Rico," filled the room with the exuberant tones of island
Miguel Zenón's plena-jazz fusion -- Spanish, transcending the language barrier.

"He kept very faithful to the rhythmic format of plena," Matos said, "and he let me sing about how I
play my instrument and the joy it brings to me."

The final song, "Despedida," is an ebullient celebration of the Christmas parties held for a two-week
period in Puerto Rico. It mentions guests that would typically appear at the houses of Matos' and
Zenon's extended families.

For a moment, it seemed a real parranda, or traveling musical party had formed, and TriBeCa had
been transported to the Caribbean.

- Ed Morales -NEWSDAY

"FEATURE: At Home in Two Traditions: Jazz & The Sounds of Puerto Rico"

When the jazz saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón visits his native Puerto Rico to see his mother and other relatives every year around Christmastime, he rarely hears any jazz. Instead he’s surrounded by plena, a century-old Afro-Caribbean musical tradition, a kind of movable street-corner folksong.

Plena is made with three different-size panderos (like tambourines without the cymbals) and voices singing about island myths and scandals, cultural identity, political reality, love and plena itself.

“It’s really common,” he said in an interview last week in Washington Heights, where Mr. Zenón, 31, now lives with his wife, Elga Castro, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the New School. “And it’s so simple that you find it at a basketball game, at church — anywhere.”

Panderos are easily portable, as opposed to the barrel-shaped drums used in bomba, another island music. And the four-beat plena rhythm has also been part of the holiday-season ritual of parranda, which is akin to Christmas caroling: surprise late-night musical visits to the neighbors.

Part of the jazz tradition is using whatever’s in front of you, and Mr. Zenón, a New Yorker since 1999, has done this before. His album “Jíbaro” (Marsalis Music), from 2005, dealt with the song form of Puerto Rican back-country troubadours, and it had a preoccupation with numbers, particularly in the décima, a 10-line stanza with specific rhyme schemes.

“Jíbaro” threads Puerto Rican folklore through small-group jazz played at a high level, led by Mr. Zenón’s limpid and graceful alto saxophone sound. The album helped establish Mr. Zenón as one of the important contemporary revisers of Latin jazz and spread his reputation for delivering excellent music from a complicated premise, a reputation that reached the secret committees of the MacArthur Foundation, which awarded him one of its $500,000 “genius” grants in September.

This year Mr. Zenón also received a Guggenheim research grant and took a long fact-finding trip back to Puerto Rico. To ask for introductions to the living plena masters, he sought out Hector (Tito) Matos, a plena practitioner who has played with the long-running New York band Los Pleneros de la 21, as well as his own group, Viento de Agua.

Mr. Matos pointed him toward historians and older musicians like Modesto Cepeda and Ismael (Cocolai) Rivera so that Mr. Zenón could understand the music’s origins and functions. He learned about the subtle differences, for instance, between the San Juan-style use of the open hand on the pandero and the slower-tempo “punta de clavo” fingertip style of Mayagüez.

An insight from Ramón López, an ethnomusicologist who has written about plena, helped Mr. Zenón with his work. “He said something to me about how the moment you put plena onstage, it’s not the real thing anymore,” Mr. Zenón said. “So he told me not to worry about it, because it’s already different from what it’s supposed to be.”

Mr. Matos said: “That he decided to focus on plena for a whole recording and a whole research project, that surprised me right away. It’s very important what Miguel is doing, to open the music we play to more ears around the world.”

Mr. Zenón used his research for his composition “Esta Plena,” a work in 10 parts: half instrumental, half with singing. (He wrote his own lyrics too: about the nature of plena, about an all-night New Year’s party at Mr. Matos’s house, about political corruption and the disappearance of cultural tradition.) It will be performed for the first time this week, Thursday through Sunday, at the Jazz Gallery in the South Village. The performances feature his working quartet — Mr. Zenón, the pianist Luis Perdomo, the bassist Hans Glawischnig and the drummer Henry Cole — as well as three extra musicians playing plena rhythms and singing: Mr. Matos, Juan Gutiérrez and Obanilu Allende.

Again in “Esta Plena” Mr. Zenón used numbers as an organizing principle. “There are three panderos in plena,” he said. “So I dealt with the number three. In terms of form I wrote a lot of phrases in three or six. Harmonically I started thinking in terms of major-third intervals and augmented triads, and from there I built melodies and chord progressions.”

That the basic plena rhythm is always in four — with the biggest drum accenting the one and three, the middle one accenting the three and four, and the smallest providing improvised accents — didn’t deter Mr. Zenón. Through “Esta Plena” he has kept the four-beat percussive plena rhythm steady, while writing melodic cycles for the rest of the band in three or nine.

If you think that sounds complex, you’re right. (Mr. Zenón graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1998 and had no formal math training beyond high school. Still, he has a math-and-science way of thinking.) Yet his compositions are always clear and organized, and when they’re making references to folklore, they keep the feeling of dance in them.

The number three, incidental - Ben Ratlif-NEW YORK TIMES

"CONCERT REVIEW: Rising Star Lives Up to the Buzz"

When it comes to buzz, there’s hot and there’s white-hot. Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, who led his quartet at the Center for Latino Arts in the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center on Thursday night, is in the white-hot zone of the jazz world. His appearance was one of the highlights of the more than 200 events that are part of the Jazz Week ’08 festivities in Boston, which conclude tomorrow.??

Over the course of an intense and often electrifying 90-plus minutes, Zenon, a 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico, more than lived up to the expectations set by a string of recent accomplishments. A Guggenheim fellowship winner, Zenon has become one of jazz’s go-to saxophonists, with Danilo Perez, Bobby Hutcherson and the San Francisco Jazz Collective only some of his high-profile collaborators.?

At the Center for Latino Arts, he concentrated on songs from his just-released CD, “Awake,” the third album of Zenon’s produced by Branford Marsalis for his Cambridge-based Marsalis Music label. It was material that the saxophonist used to lay down an almost nonstop fury of rhythmically charged ideas.??

Zenon’s tack on “Awake” is to set keyboard player Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole loose to produce intricately churning rhythms over which he flies and interacts. On Thursday, his experiences as a teenager in Puerto Rico playing salsa and merengue formed a subtle undercurrent for his pulsing attacks.

While the dance beat of the bomba or plena bubbled far below as rhythmic inspiration for his improvisations, it was later career influences such as M-Base adventurers Greg Osby and Steve Coleman whose muse Zenon channels in a completely original way. His high-wire explorations, which began on the opening bars of “Penta” and grew only more roiling, were not for the faint of heart.??

But unlike some dabblers in avant-gardish honks and wails, Zenon’s playing melded the complex fierceness of his band’s support into a completely logical flow. “Camaron” hinted at Africa and the Middle East, yet acted - like the Afro-Cuban-rooted “Third Dimension” - as a springboard for the leader’s seamless string of intensity.?

?“Third Dimension’s” dancing Latin rhythms gave way to the night’s most straightforward lyrical moment on a gorgeous ballad that Cuban singer La Lupe covered decades ago. It was the perfect intersection of past and future for a present-day rising star.


"CONCERT REVIEW: Miguel Zenon Dazzles with Best Night Yet for Discover Jazz Festival"

What is it about the FlynnSpace and the exceptional performances that have occured there each year during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival? Does the intimacy of the small room elevate the playing of the guest artists? Not automatically. But, in combination with the Festival's uncanny capability for uncovering superb musicians on the rise, there is often magic that takes place -- and the Miguel Zenon Quartet continued the tradition Monday night with a scintillating performance that provided the best night so far.

Zenon is a gifted alto saxophonist who possesses a great sense of subtlety while also taking his quartet to powerful heights within parameters that are quite well thought out. A key element in jazz is improvisation, yet individual solos often spiral downward as they are simultaneously climbing upward in length. Not with the Zenon Quartet, however.

Zenon's arrangements make careful and deliberate use of rhythmic punctuation, allowing the listener to truly discern the lovely interplay of the musicians onstage. As an instrumentalist, Zenon is superb. But he smartly does not totally dominate center stage. Rather, his playing allows all three of his team members to contribute mightily -- and not just when it's their turn to solo.

The concert began with a 45 minute stretch that combined three different selections ("Ulysses in Slow Motion," "Camaroon," and "Santo") with no real hard stop between each. It is almost unfathomable that Aaron Parks was "filling in" for Zenon's regular pianist Luis Perdomo. While he may have been a little more dependent on the charts in front of him, Parks was fluid and unflappable. With Parks laying down the melodic backdrop, Zenon took flight with a stunning solo run.

After dropping almost everyone's jaws into their laps, he quietly strolled out of the spotlight as Parks, bassist Hans Glawisching, and drummer Henry Cole brought their own talents into greater focus. Cole has a very special approach to soloing; instead of the heavy handed power play so common to percussionists, he utilizes the rims, toms and bass drum and does not overuse the snare and cymbals. He also employs the triangle and a collection of other small percussion instruments to add texture.

Glawisching plays directly off this style with note bursts that serve the purpose of demonstrating his own skills while reinforcing Cole's. To tie it all together, Zenon occasionally will send in a one or two note riff from the sidelines. The majority of lead players do not do this. They simply let each guy do his own thing, and around the horn it goes.

The next two selections were quieter but every bit as rich in depth. Cole's brush and mallet work was sublime, and Parks picked up his cues perfectly. In the latter piece, Parks set a slightly dark mood and then segued to a heavily syncopated phase. Here, Cole expanded the entire horizon with near solo-like playing without losing the basic percussion structure. Then, Zenon re-joined his mates for a rousing conclusion.

After thanking the audience for "supporting live music," Zenon returned for a bebop laced encore to wrap up the 90 minute performance. The thanks was returned with a long and well served ovation.

- Burlington Free Press


From the fruits of winning both a MacArthur ("genius grant") and Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, expands his clear vision of modern jazz and Puerto Rican folk music in Esta Plena. With an incisive voice, his involvement with the SFJAZZ Collective, Guillermo Klein's Y Los Gauchos and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra is well documented, but his own recordings are what truly reflect his unique heritage and identity.
Where Zenón's Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005) explored the diverse folk Culture Musica Jibara (Jibaro Music), this project finds Zenón doing more research and culminating with fresh interpretations of la plena, which is described as "a by-product of Spanish Colonization, combining African rhythmic syncopations with European harmonies and melodic cadences." More simply put: the musical equivalent of the H1N1 virus, it is delightfully infectious.

Joined by an excellent quartet for more than five years consisting of pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole, these new explorations exhilarate with the added bonus of an authentic plena group which includes Hector "Tito" Matos, Obanilu Allende, and Juan Gutierrez on vocals and panderos (hand-held single-head drums).

The ten tracks are split between five instrumental and five vocal, with Zenón writing the music and lyrics. A delicate tightrope is traveled as urban street music fuses with the traditional; compositions that swing and sing, lighting fires as heard in the title ("This Plena"), sweet vocal harmonies in "Oyelo" ("Listen To This!!!"), socially conscious commentary in "Que Sera de Puerto Rico" ("What Will Become of Puerto Rico?") and a tale of celebration in "Despidida" ("New Year's Eve"), as the group quotes "Auld Lang Syne" before leading into enticing vocals and music.

Everything about Esta Plena embodies excellence—memorable performances from everyone, vigorous composition, and improvisational freedom—translated by Zenón's respectful handling of the "people's music," encouraging exploration of its history and present.


"CD REVIEW: ESTA PLENA ( en francais)"

by Yannis Ruel

Le saxophoniste deliver une superbe reinterpretation jazz de la musique afro-portoricaine.

Issue du ghetto portoricain, Miguel Zenon pouvait sembler predestiner a la salsa ou au reggaeton. C’eut ete sans compter sur la determination de ce saxophoniste alto de 33 ans, qui a gravi tous les echelons qui menent d’un conservatoire de quartier au gotha du jazz US. Au sein de l’ecurie Marsalis depuis cinq ans, il n’en a pas oublie ses raciness antillaises pour autant, comme en temoignait deja l’album Jibaro. Fruit d’une recherché sur les fondements de la plena realisee grace auz bourse MacArthur et Guggenheim, ce nouvel opus celebre les possibilities d’une reinterpretations de cette musique afro-portoricaine dans le le langage du jazz contemporain. Le quartette de Zenon y joue en symbiose avec un trio de pleneros aguerris, percussionnistes et chanteurs, pour une fusion qui, loin de diluer ses ingredients, en libere les essences. New York et Porto Rico, un soufflé de bop sur le barrio et un air de carnaval- pour une fois ni cubain ni bresilien- dans le latin-jazz.

by Pascal Rozat

La direction prise par Miguel Zenon sur ce nouvel opus est à la fois très attendue et très surprenante. Car si ce dernier n’a jamais renié ses origines portoricaines, la présence d’influences latines dans sa musique demeurait jusque là discrète, sous-jacente, intégrée dans une conception plus large du jazz qui devait tout autant à Steve Coleman et à la scène new-yorkaise actuelle. Même sur son album « Jibaro » (2005), déjà dédié au folklore de son île natale, la composante latine était pour ainsi dire « digérée » par un quartet résolument ancré dans le jazz d’aujourd’hui. Et voilà que Zenon fait le choix de revendiquer explicitement ses racines, en s’adjoignant les services de trois percussionnistes chanteurs portoricains. Comme son titre l’indique, le disque entier est un hommage à la plena, style traditionnel rythmé et dansant où les vocalistes s’accompagnent de tambours et de panderos, sorte de gros tambourins que l’on peut admirer sur la pochette. Et la surprise vient du fait que, cette fois, le saxophoniste a choisi de rester au plus près des fondamentaux de cette musique : « Je me suis dit que j’allais garder ce rythme intact, et que j’allais écrire autour, en restant le plus fidèle à cette tradition. » (interview dans Jazzman N°152, décembre 2008) Ainsi, on pourrait dire qu’« Esta Plena » est le premier vrai disque de latin jazz de Miguel Zenon. Son disque le plus festif, aussi. Sur ce tapis de percussions endiablées, les solos de l’altiste font merveille : vif, tranchant, débordant d’invention rythmique, son style pourtant si moderne reste décidément bien enraciné dans ces grooves latins. Le pianiste du quartet, Luis Perdomo (originaire pour sa part du Venezuela), n’est pas en reste et déploie avec aisance des chorus à l’architecture parfaitement contrôlée. Plus en retrait que d’ordinaire, le tandem contrebasse/batterie se fond avec aisance dans les rythmes portoricains, tout en y apportant des accentuations inattendues. Au final, « Esta Plena » relève sans doute d’une démarche moins personnelle et originale que « Awakening », le précédent album de Zenon. Long de 72 minutes, le disque aurait peut-être aussi gagné à être plus resserré dans son propos. Mais l’énergie et l’engagement total des musiciens suffisent à balayer ces quelques critiques.
Pascal Rozat - multiple


Fresh off of garnering his mantelpiece-polishing Guggenheim and MacArthur awards, alto saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón gets back down to the business of making some serious music. No, what we hear on Zenón’s impressive new project isn’t steeped in the stuff of music of a capital “S”-serious nature, but music with integrity, energy, poise and a fresh vision of how the Afro-Caribbean jazz aesthetic can evolve without losing its deep roots.

More specifically, with Esta Plena, Zenón has construed a compelling merger of both his jazz persona with investigations into the folkloric plena music of his native Puerto Rico, both in composition and performance, via the blending of bands from each tradition. Zenón, the player, works in plenty of evidence for the defense of his status in the upper ranks of living alto saxophonists.

After “Villa Palmeras,” the album’s adrenaline-fueled opener, the conceptual stitching begins in earnest with the title track. Plena percussionist-vocalist Héctor “Tito” Matos lays out a simple minor melody, an island motif which then becomes the basis of more harmonically sophisticated variations and extensions in jazz mode. Other highlights include the brisk Cuban-bop melody of “Residencial Llorens Torres” and “Calle Calma,” on which the melody slithers loosely over a bass-drums pulse, to beguiling effect.

The commanding jewel of the album may well be “Qué Será de Puerto Rico?,” in which another simple, four-measure chant of a melody is spun and reconfigured in feisty, high-energy ensemble patterns and simmering vamping (with a vim-and-vigorous solo from drummer Henry Cole). Especially with this piece, Zenón achieves his ambitious intention, working a kind of folk-roots-meets-art-music gambit, with an intelligent and felt musicality coursing below.
- Josef Woodard-JAZZ TIMES

"FEATURE: Folk Art: On Esta Plena"

Folk Art: On Esta Plena, saxophonist Miguel Zenon matches the proletarian plena music of his native Puerto Rico with modern-jazz ethos

Smart and tough, the music on saxophonist Miguel Zenon’s Esta Plena (Marsalis) often evokes the sounds of his neighborhood back in Puerto Rico. But Esta Plena is not about nostalgia-it’s about a certain wisdom.

“Plena is the music of the street,” says Zenon, 32. “This is music from the people. It’s Simple and basic, and accessible; it can start a part anywhere, but at the same time, it’s so deep. That’s what I hope you can hear in this record.

Plena is a traditional genre from Puerto Rico, and in Esta Plena, Zenon reframes it with the tools and sensibilities of jazz. But this is no mere fusion. Rather, the music suggests a form of bilingualism. There is a lived-in understanding of the styles at play, and because of it they sound familiar and whole but also renewed.

This kind of work is no entirely new to Zenon. He has delved into traditional Puerto Rican genres before, as a sideman (most notable on David Sanchez’s Melaza, Columbia) and as a leader; on 2005’s Jibaro (Marsalis), he explored the country music of Puerto Rico.

Then last year, Zenon won both a Guggenheim and a MacArthur Fellowship (the no-string-attached, $500,000 “genius grant”), a remarkable feat that raised some eyebrows. The prizes, he says, did not put any extra pressure on him as a player, composer or bandleader. “I didn’t really feel that anything changed,” he says. “Of course it’s a great thing, and good things came with it, but in terms of how I think about music, nothing changed.” But the financial rewards did “make a lot of things easier” and “take a little pressure off,” he concedes. “Now I can actually do just the gigs I want to do, and the rest of the time I can stay home and write music and work on the stuff I want to work on, with the people I want to work with.” In fact the fellowships afforded Zenon the means to do the research he wanted.

Esta Plena is “definitely connected to the idea in Jibaro, in that we took something very folkloric and put it in a jazz context,” explains Zenon. “But for this record, thanks to the Guggenheim, I went deeper in terms of research, interviewing musicians and scholars, studying old recordings and doing a lot of reading. And we went the next step by incorporating some of the actual instruments of this music and [by having] vocals, which is so central to this style.”

A fusion of African, Hispanic, indigenous and Creole elements, plena emerged, by many accounts, among the poor working class and disenfranchised population of Ponce, a southern city of Puerto Rico, sometime between the late 19th and early 20th century.

“The most common definition is that plena is a peridoico cantado [a sung newspaper],” says Hector “Tito” Matos, a plena singer and percussionist, and leader of the contemporary plena group Viento de Agua. “But it was also more than that. Plena was often the tip of the spear so to speak, in the social struggles around the sugar cane harvest.” Angel Quintero Rivera, an author and professor at Universidad de Puerto Rico, says plena is “the music of the migrant workers who worked in the coffee crop and then moved along the coast from town to town to work in the sugarcane harvest.”

In fact, the portable instrumentation and newsy lyrics are a reminder that plena is “an itinerant music,” he says. “This music is related to bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican genre played with big, heavy drums, los barriles de bomba [bomba barrels]. In fact, there si a bomba rhythm called holandes [literally, ‘Dutch’], that is the basic pattern in plena. But this had to be portable music: That’s why they cut the top of the drums and turned it into panderos [single-head, handheld drums].” Also, he explains, bomba has a close relation to African slavery, where one of the issues was language, given the different tribal origins of the enslaved. In such music, rhythms are more important than words. “Plena, which came later and is not connected to slaver, is more of a word music.”

And plena doesn’t have a dance associated with the rhythm, adds Matos, one of the reasons “why plena has been left a bit behind other popular genres, like salsa or meringue-because these genres have definite dance patterns. Bomba has specific steps and has to do with the dialogue between the dancer and the highest-pitched drum. In plena none of that exists. There are some folk dance groups that have been developing some routines, but in truth there is no historic documentation that there ever were any dance steps associated to plena, and that has worked against its popularity.”

Plena was originally played by a group featuring a guitar, a sinfonia (a small butt accordion), a pandero, a guiro (scrape gourd) and a singer. But this evolved, explains Matos, and the instrumentation of contemporary plena now generally comprises three panderos of different sizes, with different sounds and rol - Fernando Gonzalez-JAZZ TIMES MAGAZINE


We are in a golden age of Latin jazz activity, and here’s more proof. Awake is the third project by the Puerto Rican saxophonist and like his earlier works, it’s full of intelligence, bristling with knowledge. Zenon, like a pile of younger musicians, works the two sides of the Latin jazz equation like few people have before him, and at times he sounds like Charlie Parker — check out "Awakening" — and at other times he and his exceptional group, Luis Perdomo on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Henry Cole on drums move into a rhythmic sophistication that owes its robustness directly to the Caribbean. Zenon uses a string quartet for two pieces, and on one track amplifies the group with trumpet, trombone and tenor saxophone. At times Zenon exemplifies the rhythmic and harmonic modernity that’s rife in New York jazz circles, and he’s followed by the always great Perdomo — listen to Perdomo’s solo on "Ulysses in Slow Motion." Anyway, this is work that is changing the way jazz functions, and elevating the high mark on what’s possible in the idiom. It’s historic. Highly Recommended - DESCARGA


As a Leader:
Miguel Zenon, Esta Plena (2009)
Miguel Zenon, Awake Marsalis Music ( 2008)
Miguel Zenon, Jibaro, Marsalis Music (2005)
Miguel Zenon, Ceremonial, Marsalis Music (2004)
Miguel Zenon, Looking Forward, Fresh Sound New Talent (2002)

As a Sideman:

Miles Okazaki, Generations, Sunnyside Records ( 2009)
Paolo Mejias, Jazzambla ( 2008)
SF Jazz Collective, Live 2008 5th Annual Concert Tour ( 2008)
Guillermo Klein, Filtros, Sunnyside Records (2008)
Hans Glawischnig, Panorama, Sunnyside Records ( 2008)
SF Jazz Collective Live 4th Annual Concert Tour, SF Jazz Records (2007)
The Jason Lindner Big Band Live at the Jazz Gallery, Ansic Records (2007)
Brian Lynch, Spheres of Influence Suite, Ewe Records (2006)
Miles Okazaki, Mirror (2006)
SF Jazz Collective Live 2006, SF Jazz Records (2006)
SF Jazz Collective 2, Nonesuch (2006)
Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, Not in Our Name (2005)
Charlie Haden, The Land of the Sun, Verve (2004)
SF Jazz Collective, Nonesuch (2005)
David Sanchez, Coral, Columbia (2004)
Luis Perdomo, Focus Point, RKM Records (2004)
Kendrick Oliver, Welcome to New Life, Sphere (2003)
The Jinga Quintet, A Day Gone By, Fresh Sound World Jazz (2003)
Hans Glawischnig, Common Ground, Fresh Sound New Talent (2003)
Ray Baretto, Homage to Art Blakey, Palmetto Records (2003)
Quite Sane, The Child of Trouble Times, Rykodisc (2002)
Edu Tancredi y el Bandon 33, Ongoing Dreams, Fresh Sound New Talent (2002)
Guillermo Klein, Los Guachos 3, Sunnyside (2002)
Mika Pohjola, Landmark, Abovoize (2002)
Sebastian Weiss, Momentum, Fresh Sound New Talent (2001)
William Cepeda, Branching Out, Blue Jackel Entertainment (2001)
Mango Blue, Immigrant Blues, Axent Music (2001)
David Sanchez, Travesia, Columbia (2000)
Greg Tardy, Abundance, Palmetto Jazz (2001)
Stephan Crump, Tuckahoe, Accurate (2001)
David Sanchez, Melaza, Columbia (2001)
Either/Orchestra, More Beautiful Than Death, Accurate (2000)
Gilson Schachnik, Raw, Brownstone (2000)
Gabriel Rodriguez, Beginning, Pina Music (1999)
Edu Tancredi & Bandon 33, Latin Spell, Brownstone (1998)

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This young musician and composer is at once reestablishing the artistic, cultural, and social tradition of jazz while creating an entirely new jazz language for the 21st century.

--MacArthur Foundation,2008.

Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenon was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he studied classical saxophone at the famed Escuela Libre de Musica. Although Zenon was exposed to jazz while in high school, it was not until he began his studies at the Berklee School of Music that his formal jazz training began. After graduating from Berklee, Zenon received a scholarship to attend Manhattan School of Music and in 2001, he received a Masters in Saxophone Performance. The distinguished list of educators he has studied with include: Angel Marrero, Leslie Lopez, Rafael Martinez, Danilo Perez, Dick Oatts, Dave Liebman, George Garzone and Bill Pierce.

In his relatively short, but rather illustrious career, Zenon has performed and/or recorded with a quite a diverse array of artists including: David Sanchez, Charlie Haden, The Village Vanguard Orchestra, Bobby Hutcherson, Bob Moses and Mozamba, The Either Orchestra, Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos, The Mingus Big Band, Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band, Ray Barretto, and Steve Coleman, among others.

In 2004 Zenonwas asked to become one of the founding members of the SF Jazz Collective; an octet whose past and present members include Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson, Nicholas Payton, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas and Brian Blade. The members, who participate in a residency period where they workshop and rehearse new music, divide their time (roughly two months) between composing, performing and teaching. The SF Jazz Collective has toured in the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe and to date, have released five critically acclaimed live recordings, garnering them a spot in the Downbeat Critic�s Poll Rising Star Small Group category in both 2006 and 2007 � an honor which, coincidentally, they shared with Zenon's own quartet.

The Saxophonist and Composer has released four recordings as a Leader. His debut CD Looking Forward, was selected by the New York Times as the number one independent jazz record of 2002. In 2004, after being one of the first artists signed to Marsalis Music, he released the critically acclaimed Ceremonial. This same year also marked the beginning of three consecutive years on the top of the Downbeat Critic�s Poll in the Rising Star Alto Sax category. Zenon topped that category as well in 2008,making that the fourth time in the last five years. In 2005 Zen�n was honored by Billboard magazine as one of the �Faces to Watch-- 30 Under 30: Top Young Acts and Executives.� That year Zen�n also released Jibaro, a tribute to the "Musica Jibara" of Puerto Rico and commissioned by a grant from the New York State Council of the Arts. Like his previous recordings, Jibaro was uniformly well received and appeared on many top ten lists including The New York Times, Latin Beat, El Nueva Dia, and the Chicago Tribune. In 2006, the readers of Jazz Times Magazine voted him the Best New Artist of the Year. Awake, his fourth recording as a leader (and third for Marsalis Music) was released in April 2008.(Read Reviews).

In addition to touring extensively throughout the US and Europe and Latin America with his quartet, Zenon has made teaching a priority in his professional career. In 2003, as part of the Kennedy Center�s Jazz Ambassador�s Program, Zenon's quartet was selected to teach and perform throughout West Africa. Since then he as done master classes, clinics and/or residencies in such diverse institutions as the Banff Centre, University of Manitoba, LeMoyne College, UMASS-Amherst, the Brubeck Institute, Berklee College of Music, Conservatoire de Paris, Rotterdam Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music and the Diaz Institute. Zenon also serves as a private saxophone instructor at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York.

In April 2008 Zenon received a fellowship from the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to work on his next project which focused on Plena Music from Puerto Rico. The recording, Esta Plena was nominated for two Grammy Awards. Later that year he was one of 25 distinguished individuals chosen to receive the coveted MacArthur Grant, also know as the "Genius Grant".

Miguel recently completed his newest recording, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook. This latest project, that will be released in 2011, explores "standards" from some Puerto Rico's greatest composers. Alma Adentro features MIguel's quartet, a 10-piece ensemble and arrangements by Guillermo Klein.

For more about Miguel, please visit his Web site www.miguelzenon.com