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Saxophonists Miguel Zenón and Mario Castro return to the Gallery stage this Thursday, August 7th, 2014, for the third of four installments of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series, Vol. 1, Edition 2. Their final performance in the series will take place next Thursday, August 14th, 2014.

We’ve already posted the first half of our conversation with Miguel and our conversation with Mario; here’s the second half of our conversation with Miguel:

The Jazz Gallery: When you work with younger musicians, what do you hope to impart to them? 

Miguel Zenón: In terms of teaching, I see myself as someone who’s had specific experiences and has a specific point of view about a lot of things. It’s not necessarily something that’s right or wrong—it’s what I could share, so when I’m working with younger musicians, I’ll share what I feel has worked for me. But, at the same time, I feel that music education and jazz education in general is still a great platform for acquiring information, especially in this age when there’s so much information out there and so much stuff that you can work on.

If you think about 50 years ago when Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker were working on their stuff, their process had to be totally different. They didn’t sit in a classroom listening to somebody teach them harmony; they had to figure it out on their own or in a community. Today it’s a lot more like you feed yourself information and hope that you find opportunities to put it into practice. It’s not replaceable, though, with experience on the bandstand, getting to play and getting experiences with older musicians, going through struggles on the bandstand—like real-life musical situations that you’re not going to get in school.

In school you’re comfortable: you’re in a combo with people who listen to the same records, you do concerts, and it’s really good. But, at the same time, I think it’s important for younger students and musicians to know that the eventual reality is going to be different. When you’re not in school you’re going to have to deal with responsibilities on your own and not just as an assignment, or get better because you have a test. It has to become a lifelong thing where you’re committed to getting better.

At the same time there’s all this stuff connected to being an artist. This is how you’re going to make a living, so you have to be on top of that: you have to know how things work, you experience situations where you’re going to have to say, “Okay, this is my job. I’m going to have to take this seriously from that point of view, also,” and, to tell you the truth, I wish it wasn’t like that.

When we started playing music, we played it because we liked it and we were in love with the music; it didn’t have to do with how much we were going to get paid, but eventually, because it becomes your line of work, you have to consider that, also.


Photo via Mario Castro's official Facebook page

Photo via Mario Castro’s official Facebook page

Two weeks ago, we posted the first part of our conversation with MacArthur Award-winning alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who has selected tenor saxophonist Mario Castro to join him as part of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series. Their first performance of four was well-received, and we’re looking forward to hearing the chordless quartet again on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 , as they continue to refine their two-horn ensemble sound.

Here’s our conversation with Castro, who, like Zenón, hails from Puerto Rico and is a Berklee alumnus (Zenón is class of ’98; Castro graduated in 2011):

The Jazz Gallery: When did you first meet Miguel?

Mario Castro: I met Miguel for the first time at a jam session he did in Puerto Rico. He used to go every December and do some jam sessions with the purpose of bringing up the musician community, and I met him at one of those sessions. It must have been like 2004 or 2005.

TJG: What do you recall of that meeting?

MC: At the first jam session, I got really sick—I think it was because I was really nervous—and at the second, I got to play with him. The third one got cancelled, but at the fourth one I got to talk to him for a while. He talked to me about sound and about the importance of knowing vocabulary, of having substance when I play; he told me, “You gotta develop this, that…you gotta develop a repertoire.”

And I remember he looked at me in the eyes and asked, “Are you serious about this?” And I said, “Yes.” So he said, “Okay, if you want to learn for real, you have to leave Puerto Rico and try to expand.” At that time, I feel like “jazz education” in Puerto Rico wasn’t as developed as it is maybe now. The conservatory has a program and they bring in all different artists, and I feel like that happened so quickly thanks to Miguel and David [Sánchez] and people who, you know, had an urge to bring education there.


Photo via

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After having alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and flutist/vocalist Elena Pinderhughes inaugurate our Mentoring Series in April, we’re continuing the series with another woodwind duo in July and August: alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, a MacArthur Award-winning artist who first débuted on our stage back in 2001, will appear alongside tenor saxophonist Mario Castro, a fellow Puerto Rican and Berklee alumnus. Castro released his début album, Primavera, on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music in 2012, which Dave Liebman praised as “a real JAZZ recording, [with] no tricks, no games, pure beauty, energy and honesty. For a premier performance it doesn’t get much better.”

Miguel and Mario will appear at the Gallery on two Thursdays in July (the 3rd and the 17th) as well as on two additional Thursdays in August (the 7th and the 14th). We spoke with both Miguel and Mario about their thoughts on these upcoming performances, and we’ll be sharing portions of these interviews over the coming weeks. Here’s part one of our conversation with Miguel:

The Jazz Gallery: Could you tell us about how you first met Mario?

Miguel Zenón: I met Mario maybe about 7 or 8 years ago. I had been organizing for the last decade or so some jam sessions in Puerto Rico when I go over during the Christmas holidays. I remember he came to one of the first ones when he was still in high school—still a young guy, but obviously very talented and really into the music.

He was very dedicated and he was always asking questions. He spent a little bit of time studying with David Sánchez, too. He was serious about what he was trying to do, so when we spoke I tried to tell him what I could and he always seemed to be asking the right questions. He always seemed to be trying to get better.

We stayed in touch and he eventually moved to Boston, so we continued to stay in touch when he went to school. (more…)

Jaleel Shaw (Lafiya Watson) & Elena Pinderhughes

Jaleel Shaw (Lafiya Watson) & Elena Pinderhughes

Last week, The Jazz Gallery débuted its new Mentoring Program with a performance by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and flutist Elena Pinderhughes. This Wednesday, April 30th, the pair return to our stage again for the next installment of the program. We hope that you’ll join us to hear this apprenticeship and collaboration continue to evolve.

Click here to read our exclusive interview with Jaleel and Elena, where we discuss their own experiences with on-the-scene learning and their thoughts on the mentoring process.

Jaleel Shaw and Elena Pinderhughes will perform together at The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014, in Volume 1, Edition 1 of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series. The band will feature Shaw on alto saxophone, Pinderhughes on flute and vocals, Lawrence Fields on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass, and EJ Strickland on drums. $15 general admission and $10 for members (first set), $10 general admission and $5 for members (second set). Purchase tickets here.

Jaleel Shaw (Lafiya Watson) & Elena Pinderhughes

Jaleel Shaw (Lafiya Watson) & Elena Pinderhughes

First impressions make a real difference, so when veteran saxophonist Jaleel Shaw (Roy Haynes, Tom Harrell) met flutist Elena Pinderhughes at The Jazz Standard, he had an intuition that something would come of their introduction.

“Elena came down to a gig I was playing with Nate Smith at the Jazz Standard—I think her brother [Samora Pinderhughes] was on the gig—and we met. She seemed like a really nice person and to me that’s one of the most important things, a person you have a good vibe with,” says Shaw.

“I think before that I had listened to some of her stuff on YouTube, and I was like, “Wow!” So after meeting her it kind of made it easier to say, “Yeah,” [regarding the Mentoring Program] because she was really cool and had a really positive vibe.”

Pinderhughes is only in her second semester at The Manhattan School of Music, but has already recorded and/or performed with the likes of Ambrose Akinmusire and Vijay Iyer and led her own band on our stage. We’re pleased to announce that Jaleel and Elena will be the first artists participating in The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Program, with performances on Wednesday, April 23rd & 30th, plus two additional performances to be announced. We spoke with Jaleel and Elena separately by phone to get their thoughts about mentorship in jazz and their upcoming performances.

The Jazz Gallery: How do you define a “mentor?”

Jaleel Shaw: A mentor is usually someone that is on a similar track to the one that you’re on, on a similar path. Maybe they’ve experienced some things that you’d like to experience or have yet to experience; maybe it’s someone that you can share information with, who shares information with you and shows you things from their experiences based on that similar path that you’re on.

Elena Pinderhughes: I think a mentor is someone who both supports you and pushes you to be the best artist, musician, person that you can be. I think a mentor has a really special role especially in a young artist’s life because they have the opportunity to not only nurture, but really push in a way that can sustain a young artist. Oftentimes a mentor’s role is one where they have to be hard on you sometimes and tell you what’s going on. A mentor helps you understand your flaws and what you need to work on, but also is someone that you can turn to for advice or help and for support, because it is a long journey.

It’s really great to have people to look up to and turn to and look at their careers to understand how they got to be where they are. The mentoring cycle is an important and special one—our mentors had mentors, and their mentors had mentors—so it’s a really big way, especially in jazz, that the tradition is being passed on from one generation to the next. (more…)