Miguel Zenón brought his multimedia project on Puerto Rican identity to New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall on February 22 for a rare performance by his longtime quartet and a jazz orchestra (others will follow at SFJAZZ Center on June 1 and at Carnegie Hall on December 7) of music destined for a recording session in Germany early next year. Zenón himself conducted the interviews with the several New York-based, second-generation Puerto Ricans featured on the video portion of the program, and he composed and arranged all the music.
“Our conversations,” writes Zenón in accompanying program notes, “can basically be summarized into one single question: What makes a Puerto Rican a Puerto Rican?” The answers he gets—as implied by the project’s title, Identities are Changeable: Tales from the Diaspora—are various, malleable and interrelated. To reflect that, the music Zenón wrote is shot through with interlocking time signatures. “As a means to represent this unique concept of identity (multiple and changeable) in the music itself,” his notes continue, “all of the compositions explore the idea of multiple rhythmic structures coexisting with each other (e.g., 5 against 7, 3 against 2, 5 against 3). In addition, each piece is meant to be a narrative of the different questions and concerns addressed during the interviews.”