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The global music scene: ZENG’S Jazziz interview

zeng

Throughout life we are presented with a limited number of opportunities that will change our entire perception of reality. As we work towards our final demise, we have a small window of opportunity, and within that split second, we have to leap – leap towards greatness or remain an ordinary member of society that will follow the stream. 

In observing the life of young New York-based jazz musician and dance music producer, ZENG; numerous encounters have brought him to become both a physician and artist and have helped him break through the glass ceiling – unveiling musical sensibilities that now fill the streets of New York City. 

The persona of ZENG was born out of the electrifying sounds of the local music scene in New York. The Rhode Island-raised doctor, who specializes in neurology and psychiatry made his big debut when he released his first album “Loading…” a compilation of jazz, hip-hop, blues, and neo-soul in December 2020. Now ZENG is taking to the streets in a completely new way, merging his musical expertise in multiple domains to build a distinctly unique sound. 

 

How ZENG came to life 

Born in New Rochelle, NY to Chinese-American parents, and raised in Rhode Island, the talented ZENG had a burning passion for jazz music ever since discovering Mulgrew Miller in middle school. It’s Miller who opened his eyes and ears to an array of artists and composers in the jazz tradition. The #BAM (Black American Music) movement, a term coined by trumpeter Nicolas Payton, would largely contribute to David’s understanding and ever-lasting love for jazz music. It would lead him to small gigs in clubs filled with fans and listeners of hip-hop, neo-soul, and jazz, with residencies at Rockwood Music Hall, the Red Room, Canary Club, and Arlene’s Grocery. 

While in graduate school at the Manhattan School of Music, he would connect with Blue Note Recording Artist and drummer Kendrick Scott and MacArthur Genius Fellow, Miguel Zenon. A fruitful relationship blossomed between acclaimed gospel pianist, vocalist, and music director Damien Sneed and ZENG, with Sneed becoming his mentor through graduate school. As his traction in the industry started to take off, he adopted the artist name ZENG to denote the jazz keyboardist and dance music producer that the world would later know him as.

The sounds that changed it all

Remember that one split second we have that would change our lives forever? Well, for ZENG it meant witnessing the sounds of keyboardist BIGYUKI in a dimly lit jazz club in New York. A melange of jazz, classical, hip-hop, soul, dance and electronica filled the air, and the crowds were seen dancing and yelling as BIGYUKI electrified the club. 

As ZENG noticed how BIGYUKI and other contemporary artists such as KNOWER, Anderson Paak, Young Franco, Goldlink, Snakehips, and Tom Misch were challenging traditional genre boundaries (particularly in the realm of dance music and jazz) – ZENG knew that the sounds he was harboring could leave the same crowds of people dancing and cheering. 

‘It took me many years to realize that there was a very important musical element missing in my music throughout my years of being a jazz musician, and that was dance. All these artists inspired me to combine jazz and dance music in a unique way and find my niche in the jazz community.’ 

ZENG climbs the ladder in the NYC music scene

New York isn’t for everyone, but if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. ZENG realized that to make a difference and remain unique he would need to bring something new to the scene. He adopted the moniker name of ZENG, a culturally neutral appropriation of his Chinese last name, as his artist/producer name. The name ZENG does not only represent his creative vision and accomplishments as an artist, but also represents the work of manys collaborators within the NY jazz-hip-hop-neo-soul scene. His debut album, “Loading…”, released by Ropeadope Records features many of these collaborators and is a fusion of jazz-dance-R&B that is meant to highlight the amazing talents of the NYC music scene.

  Now, since the launch of “Loading…” in 2020, thousands of listeners have been captivated by the album which has garnered hundreds of thousands of streams. ‘Like many other people, I am a work in progress, and so was this album. I build on what I know, and find inspiration from those before me.’

Exploring new dimensions within the genres of jazz, dance, R&B, and hip hop has become an integral part of ZENG’s creative vision. ZENG is a creative individual that strings together sounds of the unfamiliar and forgotten as well as an artist seeking to harmonize the therapeutic application of music. 

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