Saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón joined the NEC jazz faculty in Fall 2009.
In April 2008, Zenón received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to work on a project focusing on plena music, a style of folk music popular in Puerto Rico. His recording Esta Plena was nominated for a Latin Grammy award in the Jazz category in September 2010.
Video courtesy Mariah Wilkins Artist Management LLC at YouTube.
Zenón was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2008, prompting the Foundation to proclaim that "Zenón demonstrates an astonishing mastery of old and new jazz idioms, from Afro-Caribbean and Latin American rhythmical concepts, to free and avant-garde jazz. 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."
Zenón has also received similiar acclaim from DownBeat and Jazz Times as a solo artist, and was one of the initial signings to launch Branford Marsalis's label, Marsalis Music, in 2002, with five 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. It was followed by the critically acclaimed Ceremonial (2004) and Jibaro (2005), a tribute to la música jíbara—string-based folkloric music popular in the Puerto Rican countryside. Jibaro appeared on many top ten lists including The New York Times, Latin Beat, El Nuevo Día, and The Chicago Tribune. Awake was released in 2008, and Esta Plena, from 2009, received a Latin Grammy nomination as noted above.
Zenón has performed and/or recorded with a diverse array of artists including David Sanchez, Charlie Haden, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Bobby Hutcherson, Bob Moses and Mozamba, Either/Orchestra, Guillermo Klein y Los Gauchos, the Mingus Big Band, Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band, Ray Barretto, and Steve Coleman.
In 2004, Zenón was 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 SF Jazz Collective has toured worldwide and, to date, has released five acclaimed live recordings, garnering the group a spot in the DownBeat year-end critic’s poll several times.
Zenón has also made teaching a priority in his professional career. In 2003, as part of the Kennedy Center's Jazz Ambassadors Program, Zenón's quartet was selected to teach and perform throughout West Africa.
B.A., Berklee College of Music. M.A., Manhattan School of Music. Studies with Angel Marrero, Leslie Lopez, Rafael Martinez, Danilo Pérez, Dick Oatts, Dave Liebman, George Garzone and Bill Pierce. Private saxophone instruction, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Recordings on Marsalis Music.
photo by Andrew Hurlbut