Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
In 2008 and 2011, respectively, Miguel Zenón and Dafnis Prieto received MacArthur Fellowships — known as “Genius Grants” — from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. They were cited for their achievements in expanding boundaries and combining vocabularies. And you can hear them in action from Newport on JazzSet.
First, Zenón and co-composer Laurent Coq lead a quartet in music from their new suite Rayuela (in English: hopscotch). It’s named for the 1966 novel by Julio Cortázar. The author is fascinating himself: He was born in Brussels in 1914 and raised in Argentina; he then worked in Paris as a translator for UNESCO, wrote literature and played trumpet. He died in 1984.
Miguel Zenón loves every page in Cortázar’s imaginative, stream-of-consciousness book (which the novelist suggested could be read from front to back or by hopscotching through the chapters). The movements in the musical suite are for various characters and locations, and we hopscotch through three. The complete Rayuela suite is on the new album from the Sunnyside label.
Around the turn of the century, Dafnis Prieto “came over from Cuba and promptly placed every rhythm section in New York City on notice,” writes Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR Music. The drummer’s rhythmic embrace is global: In 2011, he taught and studied for six weeks at the Swarnabhoomy Academy of Music near Chennai in India. His drumming is high-energy, sunny and polyrhythmic, yet there’s more than rhythm in his writing for this ensemble. The three-horn harmony and lines provide some of the greatest listening pleasures.
With funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (Doris Duke herself liked to go to Newport), the 2012 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival commissioned Prieto to compose “Two for One.” Before and after the commission, the band plays from his album Taking the Soul for a Walk on Dafnison Music.
All music by Coq and Zenón.
All music by Prieto.
Recording Engineers: Antonio Oliart and David Tallacksen with Michael Downes; Assistant Surround Sound mixes by Antonio Oliart and Duke Markos.