A quick chat with Miguel Zenon and Cathy Kirkpatrick for Jazz Australia, on the eve of his Australian debut

CK: What led to working with the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra?

MZ: I performed with my Big Band last year at The Newport Jazz Festival. Some of the organizers from the Melbourne Jazz Festival heard the performance and suggested that we could play the same program with the JMO. The band came highly recommended, so it was an easy decision.

CK: What are some of the challenges involved in working with such a large band?

MZ: I think the biggest challenge is to make sure that all the musicians understand their function within the music and are able to feel comfortable with that. I like to think of this music for large ensemble as an extension of what we do with our smaller ensemble (a quartet), so making that “micro-macro” connection also helps.

CK: How, or  is it different from working with Latin American folkloric music

KC: I’ve worked on projects in the past where I write music inspired on a specific style of folkloric music. In those cases you’re kind of building on top of parameters that already exist; sort of like writing a melody over a “blues form” or a “rhythm changes”. In this case is very different, because this music was not inspired by a musical source, but instead the ideas came from a more sociological point of view and then translated into musical terms.

CK: Your work is partly inspired by themes around cultural identity and place.  Can you tell us more about this?

MZ: This project specifically (Identities are Changeable) was inspired by the idea of national identity as experienced by the Puerto Rican community in New York City. I conducted a series of interviews with various New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent; during our conversations various themes came up, such as their connection to language, home, music, the african-american community, etc…I wrote music based on each of these themes and used audio excerpts from the interviews to interact with the music.

CK: What can people expect from this project?

MZ: The music incorporates a lot of elements, going from your classic Jazz Big Band sounds to things that might sound more Caribbean or more connected to Latin American music. It’s very rhythmic and layered with various rhythmic dimensions in mind. We’re very excited to come to Australia (our first time!!!) and very much looking forward to these concerts…

Miguel Zenon and his quartet will be performing with the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra.

Blending the often contradictory poles of innovation and tradition, Miguel Zenon has a unique voice as a composer and conceptualists, marrying the rich traditions of Latin American folkloric music and jazz.

Widely considered amongst the most ground breaking and influential saxophonists of his generation, Zenon topped both the Jazz Artist of the Year and Alto Saxophonist categories on the 2104 Jazz Times Critics Poll.

Zenon’s work is inspired by themes of cultural identity and place, seamlessly fusing irresistible rhythms with intricate orchestral arrangements. Dynamic, audacious and intensely powerful, the six-part orchestral epic will be reimagined by Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra and Zenon’s own long-time quartet, featuring some of the leading musicians in contemporary jazz.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015