Since the early 1920’s and spanning throughout the rest of the 20th century, Puerto Ricans became one of the largest immigrant communities in the United States and the largest in New York City. This was specifically evident in the New York City area, where neighborhoods like “East Harlem” and “The Lower East Side” (both historical epicenters to the Puerto Rican exodus to the city) became known as “El Barrio” and “Loisaida” respectively. Eventually the term “Nuyorican” was born and, as of 2013, there are approximately 1.5 million Puerto Ricans living in New York City, making it the largest Puerto Rican community outside of the Island.
Having been born and raised in Puerto Rico, I’ve always been curious about the causes and development for this mass migration to the United States. Upon first coming into contact with Puerto Rican communities in this country, it was shocking for me to meet second and third generation Puerto Ricans who were as connected to the traditions of their parents/grandparents and as proud to be Puerto Rican than the people I knew back home. Where was this sense of pride coming from? What did they consider their first language? Their home? What did it mean to them to be Puerto Rican? What are the elements that help us shape our national identity? These questions, along with many others, organically pushed me towards exploring the subject further and into putting together what has now become “Identities are Changeable”.
The music on this recording is inspired by the idea of national identity as experienced by the Puerto Rican community in the New York City area. It was written around a series of interviews I conducted with various individuals, all New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. During the interviews I asked them all exactly the same questions, which covered subjects such as their level of comfort with the Spanish language, places they considered home and their connection to Puerto Rican traditions. These subjects are then represented musically on various sections of the piece (e.g. “First Language”, “My Home”, “Through Culture and Tradition”).
This is a very ambitious project, which involves my quartet plus a 12 piece Big Band (all among the best musicians in jazz today), a multimedia element that incorporates audio clips from the interviews within the compositions plus a video installment by video artist David Dempewolf. So, we’ll need all the help we can get to be able to get this one out there…We are asking for $20,000 to help pay for all these amazing musicians, the studio costs for recording, mixing and mastering plus the costs of duplication and marketing. We are shooting for a November/2014 official release.
Miguel Zenón Quartet
– Miguel Zenón – alto saxophone and compositions
– Luis Perdomo – piano
– Hans Glawischnig – bass
– Henry Cole – drums
“Identities” Big Band
– Will Vinson, Michael Thomas, John Ellis, Samir Zarif, Chris Cheek – saxophones
– Mat Jodrell, Michael Rodriguez, Alex Norris, Jonathan Powell – trumpets
– Ryan Keberle, Tim Albright, Alan Ferber – trombones
We have already performed this music (with all its multi-media elements) at some of the most prestigious venues in the country, including Jordan Hall in Boston, The SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco and Zankel Hall in New York City. The project is more than 3 years in the making and is being produced 100% independently. There are no record labels or distributors behind this, just me…and hopefully you:). I’m confident on the quality of the project and hope you’ll find that this is something that deserves your support.
Thank you very much for your attention and consideration.