Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón will release the single Milagrosa featuring Zenón and the Chicago-based internationally renowned Spektral Quartet on August 10, 2018. The single will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.
This track is from the full-length album Yo Soy la Tradición to be released by Miel Music on September 21, 2018. The recording is an ambitious concert-length work for string quartet and saxophone, drawing on cultural-folkloric traditions of Zenón’s native Puerto Rico and expressed through the modernist lens of his compositions.
“Milagrosa” begins with an unabashedly futuristic introduction, where nimble melodic shapes played by the strings filter through modern harmonies, before settling into a flowing feature for Zenón’s elegant, melodic playing. The inspiration for the work comes from the religious practice of La Promesa-making a promise to a Catholic deity in return for a favor; specifically, the title refers to a promise made to La Virgen de La Milagrosa (“The Miraculous Virgin”), a traditional song upon whose foundations Zenón crafted an entirely new and vital work. The ending is worth the price of admission for the breathless, extended soli passage with saxophone and the entire Spektral Quartet in lockstep-a tour de force of melodic invention that sets the stage for an unadorned statement of a folkloric melody that is frequently related to “La Virgen de La Milagrosa.”
Yo Soy la Tradición, Zenón’s eleventh release as a leader and fourth for Miel Music, is a work of startling clarity, synthesizing and building upon Puerto Rican folkloric forms through Zenón’s unmistakable, multilayered compositional approach. Commissioned by the David and Reva Logan Center for the Arts and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Yo Soy la Tradición is a collection of eight works for alto saxophone and string quartet which feature Zenón and the Spektral Quartet. These chamber works reach far beyond the formula of a horn backed by strings, with the Spektral Quartet taking a central role in both driving and navigating the intricate compositional forms that are a trademark of the saxophonist’s music.
Zenón set out to compose a series of chamber pieces taking both creative inspiration and formal patterning from his native Puerto Rico’s cultural, religious, and musical traditions. The results are thrilling, and defy neat categorization with their emergent contemporary sensibility: structural beauty paired with emotional urgency.
The traditions Zenón takes as his points of departure include some he has explored in depth before such as Jíbaro, a major musical genre of rural Puerto Rico and the namesake of a groundbreaking album by Zenón in 2005. Other inspirations include traditions, both musical and not explicitly musical, that he had not studied in depth previously.
“My goal is to identify the elements that make each tradition unique,” says Zenón. “If these elements are musical in nature, I’ll extract them and use them as the main seed for a new piece of music-not trying to emulate the original, but using the original source as inspiration.”
Another musical tradition informing Yo Soy la Tradición occurred as a result of Zenón’s extensive preparation in string quartet writing. Although he has previously written music for string quartet on Awake, his fourth album released a decade ago, this new hour-long work led him to revisit works by the masters of the Western canon.
“I studied many chamber works from various periods,” Zenón says, noting the collaborative aspect of working with Spektral as part of his compositional process. “As I was writing and revising, I was also able to integrate feedback from the members of the quartet, whom I would send sections and passages to.”
In one sense, Yo Soy la Tradición is a culmination of Zenón’s study of the cultural traditions of Puerto Rico. For over a decade, his regular trips to the country and his ongoing field research has granted him uncommon insight into the artistic resources afforded by the culture of the Island-in his words, a “seemingly endless well of information and inspiration,” which is continually replenished by the families and communities who carry it forward as it evolves over generations.
With Yo Soy la Tradición, Zenón has attained another milestone in his musical development, music that stands at both the intersection and forefront of the musical traditions that he has studied and now made his own.
About Miguel Zenón
A multiple Grammy® nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, Zenón is one of a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced and blended the often-contradictory poles of innovation and tradition. Widely considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation, Zenón has also developed a unique voice as a composer and as a conceptualist, concentrating his efforts on perfecting a fine mix between Latin American folkloric music and jazz. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Zenón has recorded and toured with a wide variety of musicians including Charlie Haden, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, Bobby Hutcherson and Steve Coleman and is a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective. http://www.miguelzenon.com/
About Spektral Quartet
Clara Lyon, violin / Maeve Feinberg, violin / Doyle Armbrust, viola / Russell Rolen, cello
Spektral Quartet actively pursues a vivid conversation between exhilarating works of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. With its most recent album described by Gramophone as “highly-interactive, creative and collaborative…unlike anything its intended audience-or anyone else-has ever heard,” Spektral is known for creating seamless connections across centuries, drawing in the listener with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming. http://spektralquartet.com/about/
Zenón and Spektral Quartet Upcoming Performances
- Friday, September 21 -Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Benefit concert for hurricane relief
- Saturday, September 22 – Ripon College, Ripon, WI
- Wednesday, November 14 – UMASS Amherst, Amherst, MA
- Thursday, November 15 – Villa Victoria Cultural Center, Boston, MA
- Friday, November 16 – Kennedy Center Jazz Club, Washington, DC