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Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (2011)

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Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The cover photo on alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón's Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook is of two people dancing in the middle of a boulevard. They are nicely dressed. The man's coat tail flies and their dance clasp is a passionate embrace, suggestive of a romantic yearning hitched to the side of a good time, a posture suggesting a sense of pride and dignity. And that's what the music on this release is, in large part, all about.

On Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005) Zenón explored his Puerto Rican heritage in a quartet setting. On Awake (Marsalis Music, 2008), he employed a string section and added horns. For Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook Zenón uses a regular jazz quartet augmented by a ten piece wind ensemble to explore a group of ten popular Puerto Rican tunes.

From the first alto notes of "Jugete," a good time tune, Zenón's sound is unmistakable, his dry, keening tone as distinctive as any alto saxophonist working today. The opener is fiery, up-tempo, with the woodwinds blowing cool and lush, the rhythm section crisp and tight. "Incomprehendo" is a wistful ballad, a soft huff of the woodwinds emerging like a cottony fog from Luis Perdomo
Luis Perdomo
Luis Perdomo
b.1971
piano
's spare, pensive piano work, behind Zenón's yearning alto.

"Silencio" runs hot, giving those dancers on the cover shot a workout, perhaps, and "Temes" showcases Zenón's remarkably tenderhearted virtuosity inside a fragile woodwind wash. "Perdon" steps lightly, with a hint of melancholy stirred into the mix.

Zenón's tone and his virtuosity on the alto saxophone—and the format of the CD in its entirety—bring alto saxophonist Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
to mind, especially Charlie Parker South of the Border (Verve Records, 1995) and Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes (Verve Records, 1995). The woodwind ensemble plays the role of the strings, but is lusher and more ethereal, more hauntingly beautiful, masterfully arranged by Zenón and orchestrated by Guillermo Klein.

There is perhaps no alto saxophonist working today, with the exception of Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
, who has a more voice-like, human sound on his horn. It is the sound of the trials and exaltation of our temporal condition: happiness and sorrow, verve and sadness, and dignity, expressed though beautiful music.

Track Listing: Juguete: Incomprhendo; Silencio; Temes; Perdon; Alma Adentro; Plas y Arenas; Amor; Perfume de Gardinias; Tiemblas.

Personnel: Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone; Luis Perdemo: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Henry Cole: drums; Gullermo Klein: conductor; Nathalie Joachim: flute; Domenica Fossati: flute; Julietta Cuerenton: flute; Romie de Guise-Langlois: clarinet; Carol McGonnell: bass clarinet, clarinet; James Austin Smith: oboe; Brad Balliett: bassoon; Keve Wilson: English horn; Jennifer Kessler: French horn; David Byrd-Marrow: French horn.

Record Label: Marsalis Music

Style: Latin/World


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