Chicago Tribune: Hyde Park Jazz Festival review - Music embraces a neighborhood

 (photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

(photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

The centerpiece of the festival brings a capacity audience to a hush for the world premiere of Zenon's "Yo Soy La Tradicion" ("I Am Tradition"). Commissioned for the occasion by the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the piece elegantly blurs distinctions among jazz, classical and folkloric music. Substantive yet accessible, rhythmically intense but often melodically soaring, "Yo Soy La Tradicion" shows Zenon — as in previous work — finding inspiration in the musical, cultural and religious rituals of his native Puerto Rico. Yet this is no kitschy appropriation of familiar dance forms. Instead, Zenon has crafted a vast work in which meter, tempo, texture and instrumental technique are in constant flux. Certain passages bristle with complex interactions between Zenon and the Spektral Quartet. Others prove disarmingly direct by virtue of their poetic melodies or buoyant rhythms or extended passages of hand claps for all the musicians. Zenon has built forward motion into the string writing so deftly that you never really miss the rhythm-section accompaniment that typically drives small-ensemble jazz. It's a major work that ought to be recorded, and Zenon should enter it for the Pulitzer Prize music competition.

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