Feb 15 2017
Saxophonist Miguel Zenón has a new album out. Zenón’s creative incorporation of his Puerto Rican roots into a modern jazz scene that is perpetually in a state of flux is only the first reason you want to scoop up every recording he offers up. A cinematographer was the only thing separating his previous release Identities Are Changeable and the documentaries in your Netflix library. It expanded the vista of perspectives on how Puerto Rican ex-pats living in NYC view themselves and what it means to self-identify as having roots from two separate patches of turf. It was more than a little compelling. The music was as alive as the interview subjects, and that bright and vibrant tone conveyed an electricity that was positively addictive. It also highlighted an emerging quality of Zenón’s sound. The surprises had more to do with the interactions between the musicians than the innovation of the sound. Zenón is becoming more familiar.
Eventually a consistent differentiation inches toward normalcy. Other musicians on the scene dive into the gravitational pull of a New Sound, and broaden its reach by providing their own interpretations and variations. And listeners, too, become more accustomed, and a new sound becomes old hat. There’s a comfort to be gained from that, in how the new becomes more commonplace over time, and that the spark of anticipation shifts from what might be new to a desire for more of the good stuff. But just in the way tomorrow’s sunrise will be no less spectacular to those who have spent a lifetime witnessing them, so it goes with creativity. The ebb and flow allow us to appreciate both the changes and plateaus, and each on their own merits.
And in some ways, that’s what makes Zenón’s new album Típico such a refreshing change of pace. It’s more straight-ahead than anything he’s done in recent memory. There’s no doubt this is a Zenón recording. His particular form of articulation comes through crisp and clear. And of equal relevance, so does that of his quartet, who have been a working unit for well over a decade. And that’s the point of Típico… a celebration of those bonds formed through all of that creative exploration. Because ultimately, it’s more than just any one person as driving force in a jazz collaboration. The improvisational nature of the artform means that individual voices will always be a nurturing ingredient to the growth of any particular project.
It’s a characteristic that Zenón emphasizes on his newest. It manifests in how every voice of the quartet of Zenón, pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole makes its mark on the session. It’s also displayed in the way that Zenon brought compositions to the table that were built upon a foundation of specific qualities each musician had displayed in the past when adding their voices to the quartet’s progression of development.
The likelihood is high that I’m reading too much into the album’s context and imparting meaning where it may not exist, but when I listen to this album, it sounds like everyone is reveling in the joy of playing together yet again, that no opportunity is taken for granted, and that a sense of family pervades every note that rises up.
This is simply a wonderful recording, one that celebrates so much of what is great about jazz music, but also of those bonds formed through shared creative pursuits.
Your album personnel: Miguel Zenon (alto saxophone), Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Henry Cole (drums).
Released on Miel Music.
Listen to another album track at the artist’s Soundcloud page.
Music from NYC.