Miguel Zenón

Looking Forward

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Alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón has made a name for himself as a distinguished sideman and a member of David Sánchez's band. His fiery debut as a leader, Looking Forward, revolves around a quartet comprised of pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Antonio Sánchez. Guest percussionists William Cepeda and Pernell Saturnino appear on a handful of cuts; David Sánchez, guitarist Ben Monder, and trumpeter Diego Urcola each make cameos along the way. While Zenón's music certainly owes much to Sánchez (the two even employ much of the same personnel), his capacity for nuance and surprise sets him apart. Listen to some of his monster endings and you'll likely agree. His hard-edged, high-velocity alto suggests just a trace of Greg Osby; his compositions, like Sánchez's, blend indigenous Latin forms with highly advanced jazz harmonies, lines, and rhythms. In addition to the dense interplay of "El Bloque" and "El Cruze," and the blistering swing of "Yochabel," Zenón offers a revelatory take on Bach, titled "J.S.B.," a Spanish chant/avant-garde freakout called "Anxiety," and gripping renditions of songs by Silvio Rodriguez, Rafael Hernandez, and Juanito Marques. He sets it all up with a rubato "Prayer #1 (Blessing)" and closes with "Prayer #2 (Thanksgiving)," multi-tracking hypnotic flutes under a dancing alto sax improvisation. Zenón comes across as focused, imaginative, and highly articulate, tempering chops with tremendous sensitivity.

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