Miguel Zenón - Yo Soy La Tradición

Label: Miel Music, 2018

Personnel – Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone + The Spektral Quartet - Clara Lyon: violin; Maeve Feinberg: violin; Doyle Armbrust: viola; Russell Rolen: cello.


The powerful musicality and extended possibilities one can achieve by combining saxophone and strings were tested and confirmed by jazz giants such as Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderley, Lee Konitz, and many more.

Drawing from several musical and cultural Puerto Rican traditions, saxophonist Miguel Zenón takes the concept to a completely different level on Yo Soy La Tradición, recipient of 8 chamber-like pieces written for alto sax and a quartet of strings. With the help of The Spektral Quartet - Clara Lyon and Maeve Feinberg on violin, Doyle Armbrust on viola, and Russell Rolen on cello - the saxophonist validates his own identity, exploring the Puerto Rican roots and heritage with compositional virtuosity.

Rooted in the Catholic tradition, “Rosario” is layered with sequences of rapid movements, occasional counterpoint but also a convergent unity presented in the form of unisons. Zenón breathes in synch with the quartet at his service, just like happens on the following “Cadenas”, a phenomenon metered in six, where the folk melodies of the saxophonist are subjected to violin responses and episodic replications.

Both “Yumac” and “Viejo” are connected to the Jibaro tradition. The former, set about like a Paganini’s caprice, has the quintet symphonizing tunefully with contrapuntal brilliance, pointillistic pizzicatos, and unfailing parallel lines; while the latter makes its way through arpeggiated interplay, having portentous slashes of cello contrasting with limpid saxophone wails in a beautiful dance of timbres. By the end, Zenón casts off an inspired solo. He pulls off another great improvisation on the melodious “Promesa”, a mournful lament inspired on the festivities of the Three Kings Day.

With a sequence of dominant chords in its harmonic progression, “Cadenza” waltzes steadily with the strength of a Mozart’s minuet until a pulse-free navigation makes us lose the sense of tempo. The final section reinstates the triple time, appending handclaps in an exultation of the Latin music's spirit.

Yo Soy La Tradición is a chamber tonic for the ears. Its complexities, in form and tempo, are hidden through cerebral arrangements that permit an intuitive readability of the music. Because in music, demanding executions usually require demanding listenings, get ready for the challenges this CD offers.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:

02 - Cadenas ► 05 - Viejo ► 07 – Promesa