Monday, October 10, 2011

Miguel Zenon: Jazz Sherpa

At the dawn of the second decade of his career, saxophonist Miguel Zenón has established himself as one of the most sophisticated and stylish players of the new millennium. In a very short time, Zenón has made his mark as a composer, band leader, educator, and jazz advocate. He has performed and recorded with scores of the scene's most prominent musicians as leader, side man and member of the groundbreaking SFJAZZ Collective, where he is the sole founding member remaining with the group.

Zenón has taken jazz awareness and education to new levels through his work as a Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador to West Africa, a guest lecturer and teacher at Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music and elsewhere, as well as with his founding of Caravana Cultural, a quarterly series of concerts and talks aimed at bringing jazz music "to the people" in his native Puerto Rico.

Zenón's work as an educator extends to his creative endeavors as well. His latest release, Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music, 2011), is his third so far to examine and interpret a musical form from his homeland, in this case songs from the Puerto Rican popular songbook of the mid-20th century.

All of this work—and much more—earned Zenón a prestigious MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in 2008. With its $500,000 prize allocated over five annual installments, the award not only recognizes Zenón's growing impact in the world of music but has afforded him the resources to continue to pursue his passions with vigor.


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