Renowned saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón has received two 2019 Grammy nominations for his recent album Yo Soy la Tradición, an ambitious concert-length work for string quartet and saxophone, drawing upon the rich cultural-folkloric traditions of Puerto Rico and expressed through the modernist lens of Zenón’s compositions. Zenón has been nominated in the categories of Best Latin Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo (Zenón’s Cadenas). This is Zenón’s seventh Grammy nomination.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive these nominations and to be considered amongst such a distinguished group of musicians,” says Zenón. “This project is very special to me and I’m very glad that we’ve gotten the opportunity to make it available to all the listeners out there. Working with Spektral Quartet was invaluable and I’m grateful to them and to everyone who contributed to the project.”
Yo Soy la Tradición is Zenón’s eleventh release as a leader and fourth for Miel Music. It’s a work of startling clarity, synthesizing and building upon Puerto Rican folkloric forms through his 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 Chicago-based, internationally renowned 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.
Yo Soy la Tradición has received broad critical acclaim:
"The strings seem to be in constant pursuit of a spiraling harmonic center, executing quick, sharp rhythms that feel almost danceable. Mr. Zenón folds his blossoming saxophone sound snugly into the quartet." – Giovanni Russonello, New York Times
"With Yo Soy La Tradición Zenón isn't just waving a musical flag for Puerto Rico. He has composed its deep traditions into new musical landscapes." – Michelle Mercer, NPR
“Yo Soy La Tradición is a breathtaking record of dense, nuanced compositions that reflect one of the best voices in jazz today." – Andy Jurik, Pop Matters
“Yo Soy La Tradición represents a major contribution from Composer Zenón, in an uncommonly sensitive collaboration with the Spektrals.” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, Best Classical Album of 2018
5 stars “A major chamber work. Rhythms pulse and fade, dance turns to lament and sweet harmonies shift into a series of scrapes and plucks. Zenón is focused and on form throughout, the strings play with zest and bounce and, though the narratives are complex, the logic is iron. Great album.” – Mike Hobart, Jazzwise
"...breathtaking...a brilliantly realised work of chamber music that interweaves and celebrates the languages of the string quartet, jazz and Puerto Rican vernacular music... (Zenón) builds on the tradition of Bartók, Janáček and Shostakovich." – Adam Shatz, London Review of Books
“Stunning…an almost perfect showcase for the focused gleam of Zenón’s alto saxophone, and an excellent illustration of the possibilities in this instrumentation.” — Nate Chinen, WBGO
“While folkloric in its origins, the music here is decidedly modern, a complex, multi-layered weave of new music and progressive jazz that marks a high point of Zenón’s ever-evolving oeuvre. It all comes together beautifully. Yo Soy La Tradición makes a profound statement about finding common ground between seemingly disparate musical genres and discovering the spiritual source of one’s artistic identity.” — Ed Enright, DownBeat Editor’s Pick
A Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, Miguel 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.
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.