Miguel Zenón: Jazz player on the rise
By Andrew Gilbert
Miguel Zenón is a musician with a mission.
Over the past six years, the Puerto Rican alto saxophonist has waged a fierce, single-minded campaign to make the jazz world aware of the island’s musical riches. On two previous releases, 2005’s “Jibaro” and 2009’s “Esta Plena,” Zenón combined his rigorous, mathematically structured post-bop vocabulary with folkloric Afro-Puerto Rican styles.
In a shift toward soaring lyricism, his latest album, “Alma Adentro” (Marsalis Music), is a ravishing orchestral session interpreting standards by five beloved Puerto Rican songwriters: Bobby Capó, Tite Curet Alonso, Pedro Flores, Rafael Hernández and Sylvia Rexach.
While it’s been at least two generations since the American Songbook lost its status as part of the nation’s ubiquitous popular culture, Zenón points out that the Puerto Rican Songbook, the informal collection of popular songs recorded by numerous artists, is deeply ingrained in the island’s contemporary culture (and indeed much of Latin America).