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Miguel Zenon and Luis Perdomo at Solar Myth

Miguel Zenon and Luis Perdomo at Solar Myth

Courtesy Victor L. Schermer


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Miguel Zenon and Luis Perdomo
Ars Nova Workshop
Solar Myth
Philadelphia, PA
August 23, 2023

This magnificent performance, by two of the finest Latin-based jazz musicians around today, blew the lid off a "myth" about a seemingly funky-grungy club called Solar Myth. The club's exotic name with its reference to the Sun Ra albums (Sun Ra Arkestra, The Solar Myth Approach, Vols 1 and 2, Actuel 4, recorded 1970-1971; released 2001), suggests a club with far out, "planetary music," and Sun Ra's Arkestra performed there at its opening. Its bizarre entranceway (on South Broad Street just north of Ellsworth), with a huge and gaudy sign for the Boots and Saddle, a former bar with country and western music, says that it is a weird place for far-out performances catering to social outcasts and super-hip artsy outliers. The reality is that inside is a pleasant, even conservative, coffee shop, bar, vinyl record and book sales stations, and a dining area, with a performance space consisting of an auditorium seating about 150 people. On the stage is an illuminated sign saying "Ars Nova Workshop," and you know that Mark Christman, its CEO and a co-owner of Solar Myth, is a savvy curator of the best in contemporary and avant-garde music. Zenon and Perdomo are true artists of their respective instruments. Moreover, the crowd that packed the place consisted mostly of younger folks, serious jazz fans, mostly looking like professional and business types. The Solar Myth thus has echoes of the Village Vanguard in its salad days with its founder/owner Max Gordon's savvy awareness of the jazz scene bringing in the real pioneers of the music for a highly educated and upwardly mobile crowd of listeners.

After the auditorium filled to capacity, Zenon came on stage carefully tending to his alto saxophone, and Perdomo took a seat at a Steinway baby grand of vintage 1930, which was donated or loaned by pianist Orrin Evans, who does workshops and shows there. They played with full command of their instruments, Zenon executed flowing Latin and hard bop lines on the alto saxophone with a honey-like sound throughout its register and with phrasing and harmonies strongly reminiscent of John Coltrane. Perdomo accompanied and interacted with Zenon, as well as taking highly imaginative solos, all with beautiful sonority and with a classical music sensibility on which he built Latin and jazz vocabularies, phrases, and lines. The two have very different ways of constructing the music, but their styles blended beautifully with a consistency throughout the set that is rare. Perdomo is from Venezuela and Xenon from Puerto Rico, and the music was distinctly Latin and jazz in rhythm and sensibility, but at the same time, there was a feeling of a baroque or pre—baroque duet reminiscent of a time when composed and improvised music were less distinctive than they are today.

After a few numbers, Zenon took some time to explain the source of the music, the bolero. The bolero was the basis of a recent two-album set by the Zenon/Perdomo pair: El Arte Del Bolero Vols. 1 and 2 (Miel Music, 2021, 2023). The form is slow and repetitive, like Ravel's famous composition, Bolero, but it does not have the latter's building of intensity and volume to the point of "orgasm" that Ravel got from flamenco dancing. Rather, it "is a slow form of Spanish dance with roots in Spain and Cuba. Contemporary boléro is a hybrid of other Latin and ballroom dances and combines the lilting rise and fall of the waltz, the contra-body movement of tango, and the slow movement and Latin music associated with the rumba." (This quote from an unknown source describes Zenon and Perdomo's intent exactly, except that they moved freely and seamlessly between music of diverse Latin countries as well as jazz and classical motifs.)

The songs themselves are all part of what might be called "The Great Latin/Hispanic Songbook," songs familiar to avid listeners and having a natural affinity with the jazz idiom. "Paula C." by Reuben Blades and "Silencio" by Rafael Hernandez, are ubiquitous on the air in many Latin countries. As Zenon and Perdomo show, and as Dizzy Gillespie recognized in the 1940s, there is a strong affinity between Latin (at the time, mostly Cuban) music and bebop jazz. The bossa nova craze initiated by Stan Getz (Getz/Gilberto, Verve, 1964) cemented the popularity of Brazilian music in Eurocentric cultures. There still is infinite room for integrating Latin musical genres with jazz, Zenon and Perdomo have occupied some of this space in unique ways.


Miguel Zenon, alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo, piano.

Set List

En La Oscuridad (Rafael Solano); Paula C (Ruben Blades); En La Soledad (Puchi Balseiro); Motivos (Italo Pizzolante); Caballo Viejo (Simon Diaz); Mucho Corazón (Eva Elena Valderramar); Que Te Pedi? (Fernando Mullens); Silencio (Rafael Hernandez).

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