We Made Music – You Made Mosaics!

So, as it turns out, it’s WAY fun to have our audiences making art right alongside us! We hit the jackpot by partnering with the Chicago Mosaic School for our most recent Close Encounters event – titled Facets of Earth & Sound – and if the participant response was any indication, this was one of the most inspiring and entertaining Chicago-area classical music events of the year.

As with our Painting Party last season, we were bowled over by the levels of focus and creativity that listeners brought to the table. We performed excerpts of Beethoven’s enigmatic Op. 135 and Hans Thomalla’s on-the-precipice-of-silence Bagatellen while our friends – many of them Spektral first-timers – designed not one, but two original mosaics, inspired by the performance. Or “performances” as it were, since we played each piece twice so that the assembled could immerse themselves in the sonic environment before chipping away at glass and smalti.

We hope you’ll join us for our next Close Encounters show, but in the meantime, enjoy these photos by Loyola University photographer Mary Grace Ritter!

The Michigan Daily: Zenón and the Spektral Quartet at The Cube

“Much of the concert functioned like a study in contrasts. Often the quartet would lock into a tight and controlled pattern, almost hocket-like, providing a backdrop for Zenón to improvise fluid and athletic lines above, below, around and within the quartet’s music, the rigidity of the quartet starkly different from the saxophone line. At other times the contrasts would be sectional — at one moment all the musicians might be sawing out a line in fierce melodic and rhythmic unison (like in“Milagrosa,” which near its end was quite reminiscent of Messiaen’s famous “Dance of Fury” movement in “Quartet for the End of Time”), and in the next they might break out into a joyful and light latin-inflected groove, as if spontaneously.

One thing that felt like less of a contrast than might be thought, however, was the blending of different musical traditions. The juxtaposition of jazz and the seething string harmonies hardly felt like juxtaposition at all — the music’s disparate influences blended seamlessly together. Zenón’s smooth improvisation over the strings interwove easily with the textures, and at times members of the quartet matched this spontaneity of sound with improvisatory sections of their own, as Zenón confirmed to me when I asked him afterwards.

Zenón and Spektral Quartet together were fascinating together, and this type of concert is exactly the sort of programing that helps keep a contemporary arts organization alive and vibrant in the modern world.”

Read the entire article here

INSTRUMENT UPGRADE ALERT! Grancino, Serafin, Goffriller, and Guarneri...

INSTRUMENT UPGRADE ALERT! Grancino, Serafin, Goffriller, and Guarneri...

Pinch us…we must be dreaming.

One of our newest board members, Joe Bein, has opened up the instrument vault at Bein & Fushi, and let us select four very fine, old Italian instruments for our upcoming concert on February 17th. For those of you who don’t know, Bein & Fushi is one of the premiere purveyors of rare violins, violas, and cellos in the world, and the shop has brokered many of the most significant instrument sales…ever.

NPR Tiny Desk Concerts: Miguel Zenón feat. Spektral Quartet

“Saxophonist Miguel Zenón is a big thinker — that much is clear from his recorded output, with its deep and inspiring connection to the folk traditions of his native Puerto Rico. But you also get that sense from his turn behind the Tiny Desk, where we can watch the concentration on his face and those of his adventurous band, the Spektral Quartet. This is life-affirming music with curious twists and turns, expertly performed by amazingly talented musicians.

There are two ways to marvel at the stunning unison playing that comes about three-quarters of the way through "Milagrosa." First, listen with your eyes closed. The notes cascade at a such a fast clip, it can leave you breathless. Now, watch with your eyes open: It's a joy to see Zenón and his band read the notes from the page, at times sneaking in visual cues with smiles just below the surface. It must be such a pleasure to make music like this.”

Read the entire article here

San Diego Tribune: Best jazz albums of 2018, from Wayne Shorter and Henry Threadgill to Myra Melford and Miguel Zenón

“On his 11th album as a solo artist, the splendid saxophonist Miguel Zenón fuses jazz, chamber-music and various idioms from his native Puerto Rico to create a sublime synthesis.”

Read the entire article here

JazzTimes: Top 50 Albums of 2018

“All of Zenón’s varied projects have seemed propelled by a singular quest, and with this magisterial chamber music outing the alto saxophonist grabs hold of the grail as never before. Becoming in effect a fifth member of the Spektral (string) Quartet, Zenón derives from the folkloric genres of his native Puerto Rico a strikingly individual musical hybrid, fluid and poetically expressive, yet unrelenting in its technical demands.”

Read the entire article here

Chicago Tribune: 'Best classical recordings of 2018'

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”Miguel Zenon featuring Spektral Quartet: “Yo Soy La Tradicion”
 (Miel Music). In 2016, alto saxophonist and MacArthur Fellowship winner Zenon partnered with Chicago’s enterprising Spektral Quartet for the world premiere of his suite “Yo Soy La Tradicion” (“I Am Tradition”). Commissioned by the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the piece wove the rhythms, cadences and song structures of Zenon’s native Puerto Rico into a sprawling work that intertwined classical, jazz, blues and folkloric vocabularies. By turns complex and accessible, historic and contemporary, “Yo Soy La Tradicion” represents a major contribution from composer Zenon, in an uncommonly sensitive collaboration with the Spektrals.”

Read the entire article here

Boston Musical Intelligencer: Not Your Usual Tradición

“A CD debut concert at First Church of Boston on November 15th found the MacArthur-certified genius and Guggenheim Fellow Miguel Zenón alongside the magnificently flexible Spektral String Quartet, playing live, the music on his 11th ground-breaking album “Yo soy la tradiciòn.

 The group began the night with “Rosario,” ushered in by the cello’s low throaty pitch, reflective of a folksy, somewhat spiritual sounding church prelude. It is inspired by a Catholic Holy Rosary, traditionally played on folk instruments at funerals or other occasions. It is immediately interrupted with soulful, virtuosic alto saxophone lines. It beautifully juxtaposed 200-year-old classical music traditions and rule-bending modern jazz influences. Miguel Zenón and Spektral Quartet dove deep inside the musical/cultural history of Puerto Rico, but also looked towards Western music to uncover the wisdom behind the tradition. Tradition is, after all, nothing more than a “corpse of wisdom.” Miguel naturally challenges it with his exceedingly outgoing personality, extending it with his rich musical vocabulary of contemporary jazz. What is the point of a set-in-stone (musical) tradition if the wisdom behind it is not present anymore? It truly is a brave composition that connects The Catholic Church representing Holy Rosary’s musicalized order with a refreshing impressionistic texture, jagged rhythms, syncopated phrases and intense vibrancy that shines through Spektral’s musical delivery.”

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An Unforgettable Morning: Sunrise Together!

On November 3rd, we met over fifty music fans at 6:30am (!!!) at the Berger Park Cultural Center to usher in the sunrise together.

We lucked out with idyllic weather, and the crowd was open-eared and surprisingly bright-eyed given the hour. We began with a group vocal meditation, led by our friend Charmaine Lee, performed two movements of the Ravel quartet, and then shifted into an improvisation to greet the rising sun.

First off, every concert should begin with a vocal meditation. It’s hard to put words to how this collective experience of singing/humming together focused the energy of the room, but there was universal agreement that it was a unique, elevating moment.

And then there’s the way the emerging sunlight illuminated faces and instruments around the room in a bright orange glow. It certainly heightened the experience of playing Ravel’s sumptuous harmonies…

Most meaningful, though, was the sense of togetherness that it inspired. The conversations and enthusiastic responses we enjoyed as we walked out to the Lake Michigan shoreline were unlike any we can remember since we became a quartet.

This was an experience we will never forget….

Jazziz: Miguel Zenón displays love and reverence for his musical heritage

“The saxophonist had written for string quartet before, but in preparing to work with the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet — Clara Lyon and Maeve Feinberg, violins; Doyle Armbrust, viola; Russell Rolen, cello — Zenón decided that he wanted true interaction between his alto and the quartet. “I wanted to feel [that I was] part of the ensemble,” he says. “I didn’t want this to be the kind of thing where the strings just play little [backgrounds] for me to play on top of. I also wanted to balance improvisation with what was written out.”

Yo Soy La Tradición was actually recorded as Hurricane Maria was battering the island nation. A year and a day later, Zenón held a release concert in Chicago on September 21, as a benefit for Chicago’s Hurricane Aid for Puerto Rican Arts. “That was the quartet’s idea,” he notes. “They saw me on the phone, trying to speak to my family, watching the news while we were making the record. They said, ‘We really want to do something.’”

Read the entire article here