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From its very first notes (played by a string quartet), Awake is identifiably Miguel Zenon: lyrical, spiritual and original. For his fourth date as a leader Zenon reunites his go-to posseLuis Perdomo (piano) and Hans Glawischnig (bass)but with a key change in the drum chair, Henry Cole replacing Antonio Sanchez.
The strings are artfully employed on the opener as a contrapuntal foil for Zenon's featherlight interweavings and on "Lamamilla" as a trilling texture evoking birdcalls; Tony Malaby, Michael Rodriguez and Ben Gerstein (on tenor, trumpet and trombone, respectively) make a brief cameo as a free jazz "choir' on "AwakeningInterlude." The compositions are first-rate, especially the anthemic "Camaron" (named for the great flamenco cantaor), the haunting "The Missing Piece," the Middle-Eastern-flavored "Santo" and the dense and off-kiltered "Third Dimension." Zenon's alto work is scintillating and effervescent; with a full, unforced tone he facilely negotiates the horn's total register, delivering up tightly constructed, rapid-fire lines containing chain-linked motifs and complex inner motion that, for all their logic and density, nonetheless retain a certain levity and grace.
In person at New York's Jazz Standard Apr. 30th, 2008, Zenon's group opened with a rousing rendition of "Camaron," capped by a no-holds-barred alto cadenza. Next was the hyperdriven "Residencial Llorens Torres," followed by a bittersweet "Amor," featuring a solo sax interlude in which Zenon slowly worked a minimalist melody into passages of lyric poetry, the room falling quiet in appreciation. Finally, a fast and funky "Third Dimension" found Zenon bobbing and weaving like a boxer as his improvisation intensified, Perdomo and Glawischnig providing support with rolling climaxes, and Cole launching salvos of bass drum bombs.
Track Listing: Awakening - Prelude; Camaron; Penta; The Missing Piece; Ulysses in Motion; Awakening - Interlude; Santo; Lamamilla; Third Dimension; Awakening - Postlude.
Personnel: Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo: piano, Fender Rhodes; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Henry Cole: drums, percussion; Judith Insell: viola (1, 8); Orlando Wells: violin (1, 8); Marlene Rice: violin (1, 8); Nioka Workman: cello (1, 8); Tony Malaby: tenor sax (6); Michael Rodriguez: trumpet (6); Ben Gerstein: trombone (6).
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.