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MacArthur Genius Miguel Zenon Plays 'Armageddon'

Miguel Zenón says he's obsessed with over-the-bar bass lines, so it's no surprise that he wrote the bass line first in his arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "Armageddon," which originally appeared on the 1964 Shorter LP Night Dreamer. The melody is "long, very bluesy," Zenón says, with minor-key chords "moving fast underneath," and after you hear it, it sticks in your head. Zenón says it's fun to play over those chords, too. In a performance recorded by JazzSet, Zenon leads the SFJAZZ Collective in a spirited rendition of "Armageddon." You can hear the full concert right here.

Regarding his 2008 MacArthur Fellowship — he won a "Genius Grant" last month — yes, it came from out of the blue, with a phone call. The caller identified himself and said he was from the MacArthur Foundation. Zenón says the man asked, "'Do you know what we do?' And I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Well, you know we have a grant,' and actually [asked me], 'Are you sitting down?' And I sat down. He said, 'You've won one, and congratulations; I'm calling just to tell you, and give you a certain amount of information.' And at the end of the call, the caller said, 'You'll never hear from us again.'"

Twenty-five MacArthur Fellows each received $500,000 to advance their work. You can see the company that Zenón keeps at the MacArthur Foundation's Web site.

Copyright 2008 WBGO

Becca Pulliam