The saying "like butta" comes to mind when listening to the alto of saxophonist Miguel Zenon
. His tone has the consistency of velvety cream, with nary a sour note. Hearing him in the context of his long-standing quartet, we get something like the voguish bulletproof coffee, which consists of butter, whipped into your favorite cup of joe. Such is Tipico
, a graceful outing with a caffeinated blast.
This stimulant is made possible because Zenón's quartet of pianist Luis Perdomo
, bassist Hans Hans Glawischnig
, and drummer Henry Cole
have been a working band for more than ten years. Indeed, that makes a difference. Tipico
follows this quartet's Esta Plena
(Marsalis Music, 2009) and several quartet recordings like Identities Are Changeable
(Audio & Video Labs , 2014) and Alma Adentro
(Marsalis Music, 2011) with expanded lineups.
Like all fine artists, Zenón draws from his heritage and experience for an authentic sound. He continues to shape the folk musics of Puerto Rico here, and as a modern jazz musician (and music academic) he investigates musical structures. The opening piece, "Academia," spirals and surges around some tricky harmonic and rhythmic practices, as a sort of post-bop bona fides test. The ease with which this quartet handles this complexity is quite amazing. Such is the tone of this recording. Why own a high performance automobile unless you're going to press down on the accelerator?
The title track draws from simple folk music, then builds layers of harmonic complexity and detail. First Zenón, then Perdomo and Cole solo, opening the music to even more possibilities. Zenón's quartet has the same energy of Bobby Watson
's band Horizon from the 1990s. Like Watson, his tone on alto is irresistible. But wait, like the late night TV adverts, there's more. Perdomo's piano on "Entra Las Raíces" is an exercise in scattered freedom, like a Latin Cecil Taylor
, he casts notes out, only to have them return to an assemble order. The tumult of the music finds an order in its disorder. For all the high wire walking, the quartet delivers some lovely ballads here. The haunting final composition, "Las Ramas," opens with a whistled melody, and is a memorable percussive exercise in hopefulness.