Performance Saturday, December 7, 2013 | 9:30 PM

Miguel Zenón

Identities are Changeable: Tales from the Diaspora

Zankel Hall
One of the most groundbreaking saxophonists of his generation, Miguel Zenón represents a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced innovation and tradition. The MacArthur Fellow and Grammy nominee perfectly blends Latin American folkloric music and jazz to create an entirely new musical language for the 21st century. The Puerto Rican–born alto saxophonist comes to Carnegie Hall with a unique multimedia tribute to his spirited homeland.

This concert is part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall.


  • Miguel Zenón, Alto Saxophone
    Luis Perdomo, Piano
    Hans Glawischnig, Bass
    Henry Cole, Drums
    Will Vinson, Alto Saxophone
    Michael Thomas, Alto Saxophone
    John Ellis, Tenor Saxophone
    Samir Zarif, Tenor Saxophone
    Chris Cheek, Baritone Saxophone
  • Mat Jodrell, Trumpet
    Jonathan Powell, Trumpet
    Michael Rodriguez, Trumpet
    Alexander Norris, Trumpet
    Tim Albright, Trombone
    Alan Ferber, Trombone
    Ryan Keberle, Trombone
    David Dempewolfe, Videographer

Event Duration

The program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • Miguel Zenón

    Multiple Grammy nominee Miguel Zenón represents a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced and blended the often contradictory poles of innovation and tradition. Widely considered to be one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation, he 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 released seven recordings as a leader, including Rayuela (2012) and the Grammy-nominated Alma Adentro (2011). As a sideman, he has worked with jazz luminaries such as the SFJAZZ Collective, Charlie Haden, David Sánchez, the Mingus Big Band, Bobby Hutcherson, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, and Steve Coleman. Zenón has been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, as well as gracing the cover of DownBeat. He has also topped the Rising Star Alto Saxophone category of the DownBeat Critics Poll on four separate occasions. As a composer, he has been commissioned by SFJAZZ, the New York State Council for the Arts, Chamber Music America, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and many of his peers.

    Zenón has given hundreds of lectures and master classes at institutions all over the world, and is a permanent faculty member at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 2011, he founded Caravana Cultural, a program that presents free jazz concerts in rural areas of Puerto Rico. In April 2008, Zenón received a fellowship from the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation. Later that year, he was one of 25 distinguished individuals chosen to receive the coveted MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the "Genius Grant."

    Luis Perdomo

    Luis Perdomo grew up in a home filled with music. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, he was exposed to just about every style of music by his father, an avid music fan and collector. Alongside salsa, Latin, R&B, and classical, the young Perdomo heard jazz greats like Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson-two of his earliest and most important musical influences. Drawn to jazz and to the piano at an early age, Perdomo was making regular professional appearances on Venezuelan TV and radio by the time he was 12. It was about this same time that he started to think more and more about the possibility of pursuing a life in music.

    After moving to New York, thanks to a full scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music, Perdomo quickly established himself as an in-demand pianist, amassing quite an impressive resume. Some of the artists with whom he has recorded and/or performed include Ravi Coltrane, John Patitucci, Ray Barretto, Brian Lynch, Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Jazz Project, Butch Morris, Ben Wolfe, Jane Bunnett, Ralph Irizarry & Timbalaye, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, Alice Coltrane, and Yosvany Terry.

    As a longstanding member of groups led by Miguel Zenón and Ravi Coltrane, Perdomo has made his mark as a performer, composer, and arranger. He can be heard most recently on Coltrane's Blending Times and Zenón's Esta Plena-each nominated for a Grammy Award. He has also released five highly praised recordings as a leader: Focus Point  (2005), Awareness (2006), Pathways (2008), The Infancia Project (2012), and the acclaimed Universal Mind with Drew Gress and Jack DeJohnette (2012). His latest project, Links was released on the Criss Cross Jazz label earlier this year.

    Hans Glawischnig

    Bassist Hans Glawischnig is one of the most in-demand bassists on the New York jazz scene today. Born in Graz, Austria, he started playing violin at age six before switching to the bass in his early teens. In 1989, he received a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1992. Glawischnig then moved to New York, where he received a scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music. In 1994, he received his master's degree and began a long string of associations with artists as wide-ranging as Bobby Watson, Maynard Ferguson, and Paquito D'Rivera. Since 1996, Glawischnig has been active in the Latin jazz arena as a member of Ray Barretto's New World Spirit sextet, as well as David Sánchez's Melaza sextet, an ensemble that has recorded several Grammy-nominated CDs. Chick Corea hired Glawischnig in 2006 for his Spirit of Mozart ensemble, a project dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

    Glawischnig continues to perform with a wide range of artists, including Ravi Coltrane, Kenny Werner, Brian Lynch, the Mingus Big Band, Billy Childs, Ed Simon, Claudia Acuña, Dafnis Prieto, Dave Binney, and Ben Monder. Appearing on more than 50 recordings, he is a longstanding member of the Miguel Zenón Quartet and has performed on all six of Zenón's recordings, including the Grammy nominated Esta Plena and Alma Adentro. Glawischnig is also active as a composer and bandleader and has three critically acclaimed CDs of original compositions: Common Ground, Panorama, and Jahira.

    Henry Cole

    Drummer Henry Cole is at the forefront of a growing wave of jazz innovation and cross-cultural rhythm in the 21st century. With his flexibility, grace, and sheer power behind the drum kit, he has proven indispensable to the sound of some of the world's most acclaimed jazz groups, including the Grammy-nominated Miguel Zenón Quartet (Awake, Esta Plena, Alma Adentro), Grammy winner David Sánchez (Cultural Survival), the Alfredo Rodríguez Trio, and the all-star quartet "90 Miles" with Sánchez, Stefon Harris, and Nicholas Payton. Cole is also asserting himself as leader of The Afrobeat Collective, which released its debut album Roots Before Branches last year. Drawing on the raw groove and momentum of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, as well as the depth and complexity of modern jazz, he is striving to integrate all his varied influences, including Puerto Rican folklore, funk, R&B, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean rhythmic traditions.

    Born in 1979 and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Cole relocated to San Juan in 1999 to study classical percussion at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. He began his jazz immersion at Boston's Berklee College of Music in 1998, but soon returned to San Juan, where he became one of the most in-demand and influential jazz drummers on the island. Relocating to New York in the fall of 2003, Cole received a scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music and study with the great John Riley. Since completing his studies, Cole has performed with the likes of Chris Potter, Adam Rogers, Drew Gress, the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Big Band, Ray Barretto, Orlando "Puntilla" Rios, Papo Vazquez, Perico Sambeat, Paquito D'Rivera, David "Fathead" Newman, Kenny Werner, Mark Turner, the contemporary plena group Viento de Agua, and many more. He has toured throughout the US and Europe, Mexico and Central America, Korea, and Japan.

    David Dempewolf

    Video artist David Dempewolf earned a certificate in sculpture from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a bachelor's from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master's from Columbia University. He has also been a resident of the Whitney Museum of Art's Independent Studio Program and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Dempewolf is co-founder and co-director of the Marginal Utility gallery and the Machete art-zine in Philadelphia. He has collaborated with pianist-composer Jason Moran (2010 MacArthur Fellow) on the touring project In My Mind and has shown singular projects in various group shows at Greene Naftali (NYC), the Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati), Whitechapel (London), and the 2007 Oberhausen and London film festivals.

    More Info


Miguel Zenón, Saxophone
Marsalis Music

Jeff Tamarkin on Miguel Zenón

It might seem to some that Miguel Zenón leads two different lives. In the first, he is one of the most highly respected alto saxophonists and composers in contemporary jazz. He has been on the receiving end of countless plaudits from critics and fans since he first appeared on the scene in the early 2000s and continues to expand upon his stellar reputation with each passing year. His other life is spent as a tireless seeker and researcher, delving into the folkloric music of his native Puerto Rico, combing the mountains and villages for the roots of the rhythms and sounds that define the island's music.

But it's the convergence of those two pursuits within his music that makes Zenón the special artist he is—and the reason he's received multiple Grammy nominations as well as both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. "The reason I became a musician was because of jazz," says Zenón. "That's what pushed me toward music; that was the music that I loved to play. But once I started writing music, I really wanted to go back to some of the experiences that I had in Puerto Rico and try to incorporate some of the ideas from that music. That got me thinking about what Puerto Rican music was. I started digging into plena music and bomba and Jíbaro music—stuff that's exclusively Puerto Rican. What really interested me was how I could use this stuff with jazz in a way so that they coexist with each other and represent me as a musician."

Zenón left Puerto Rico, initially to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The more he became acclimated, the more he realized that his purpose as an artist was to bridge the two cultures—and that the art of improvisation was one commonality between jazz and the music of his homeland. "Improvisation is not exclusive to jazz," he says, "and when you listen to Jíbaro music or certain types of African music or Brazilian music, there are elements of improvisation within that language."

On his most recent recording, Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico, released on his Miel Music label, Zenón explores his hybrid concepts in front of audiences that are not exposed to jazz regularly. But when he performs at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, he'll be bringing his show Identities are Changeable: Tales from the Diaspora, an ambitious program built around interviews he conducted with New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. "This will be the first time we're playing it in New York, which is really important because in many ways it's about New York and about New Yorkers," he says. "New York Puerto Ricans wear their heritage on their sleeve; it's so much a part of who they are. It's that pride thing."

—Jeff Tamarkin is associate editor of JazzTimes magazine.

This concert and The Shape of Jazz series are made possible by The Joyce and George Wein Foundation in memory of Joyce Wein.
Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Absolutely Live Entertainment LLC.
This performance is part of The Shape of Jazz.

Part of