Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Miguel Zenon: Yo Soy La Tradicion


Miguel Zenon: Yo Soy La Tradicion


Sign in to view read count
Miguel Zenon: Yo Soy La Tradicion
Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon has undertaken several projects over the years exploring the folk music traditions of Puerto Rico, but he takes that to a new level with this work featuring the string playing of Chicago's Spektral Quartet. The interplay of saxophone and strings here sometimes recalls the lush conversations of the classic Stan Getz / Eddie Sauter project, Focus (Verve, 1961) or Charlie Parker's recordings with strings, but this feels more like an equal musical partnership. The quartet interacts more closely with Zenon than an entire string orchestra would and never overwhelms him.

Zenon works feelings of romance, emotion and danger into his writing and these are wonderfully realized in the playing. On some pieces the quartet sets the tone. The mournful "Promesa" and the suspenseful "Cadenza" start out with ominous settings of bowed clockwork rhythms and low melodies which Zenon sweeps into with supple, seductive playing that uplifts and brightens the mood. On "Yumac" the quartet puts on an impressive display of whirling dance rhythms while Zenon carefully bobs in and out of their interplay with bubbly, soaring lines.

In other places Zenon takes more of a lead role. On "Rosario" he plays a folkish melody with stately gravity that's wrapped in warm bowed strokes and plucked accents by the quartet. Alto and thick, stabbing strings dance together from the beginning on the wriggling "Milagrosa." On "Viejo" the saxophonist starts out in the foreground sounding long, low notes against string plucks before the quartet swells dramatically and he settles into blowing a lovely ballad melody. "Villalbeno" begins with tense hovering by the quartet but is quickly dominated by Zenon swooping in with silvery flash, blowing romantically as the strings chug beneath him.

Zenon's writing is exceptional here. The quartet sketches out gorgeous musical landscapes brought into robust life by the creamy alto sound. Jazz musicians playing with string ensembles are not that rare anymore, but the sheer spellbinding beauty of this jazz-folk-classical hybrid is something special.

Track Listing

Rosario; Cadenas; Yumac; Milagrosa; Viejo; Cadenza; Promesa; Villalbeno.


Miguel Zenon
saxophone, alto

Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Clara Lyn: violin; Maeve Feineberg: violin; Doyle Armbrust: viola; Russell Rolan: cello.

Album information

Title: Yo Soy La Tradicion | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Miel Music

Next >




For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Nicole McCabe
Silently Held
Chantal Acda
Steppin' Out
The New Wonders
Hills & Valleys


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.