If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.
You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...
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.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
We sent a confirmation message to . Look for it, then click the link to activate your account. If you don’t see the email in your inbox, check your spam, bulk or promotions folder.
Thanks for joining the All About Jazz community!