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Miguel Zenon: Jibaro (2005)

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Miguel Zenon: Jibaro How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Jibaro consists of ten original compositions by the young Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón. The session's inspiration comes from the music of jibaros—Puerto Rican peasants—but there's nothing simplistic about the material Zenón has penned for his quartet, which includes pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Antonio Sánchez.

The forms of Zenón's compositions tend to be complex, and it's not apparent at first listen how they link directly to the original music. The style of Jibaro, in other words, is contemporary, mainstream jazz first, and not folk music given a jazz dressing. Zenón has acknowledged that sometimes he writes music that's "too difficult to play," and the complexity can go both ways: at times it yields memorable passages and at others it gets in the way of giving the listener something to latch onto.

Listeners with stamina will be paid off by the final two tracks, the ballad "Mariandá" and the title track, both excellent compositions with strong statements from Zenón and pianist Perdomo. As a player, Zenón often favors short, punctuated statements rather than long, lyrical lines, though he's certainly versatile. Perdomo peppers the arrangements with Latin piano vamps, but that's not the predominant flavor here.

Zenón is excellent on his instrument, shows a lot of promise as a composer, and his music on Jibaro is at its best when it's not afraid to be common.

Track Listing: Seis Cinco; Fajardeno; Punto Cubano; Aguinaldo; Chorreao; Enramada; Villar�n; Llanera; Mariand�; Jibaro.

Personnel: Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums.

Record Label: Marsalis Music

Style: Latin/World


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