Saxophonist Miguel Zenon revels in the power of his long-running quintet on the fiery new Típico | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Saxophonist Miguel Zenon revels in the power of his long-running quintet on the fiery new Típico 

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click to enlarge Miguel Zenon Quartet

Miguel Zenon Quartet

Jimmy Katz

Saxophonist Miguel Zenon opens his new quartet album Típico (Miel Music) with the hyperactive original “Academia,” which was inspired by his experiences teaching jazz at the New England Conservatory. He built the tune from exercises he developed for students, and between the tune’s breakneck pace and its harmonic jujitsu he seems keen on challenging not only his pupils but also his bandmates—pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole—who chew up the changes and tempo shifts like a berserk Pac-Man. After using his last few albums to elaborate on the musical folklore of his native Puerto Rico, Zenon designed Típico without a conceptual framework, instead opting to simply show off what it means when a band locks in and fires on all cylinders. Luckily the quartet cools down after its high-octane, muscle-flexing opener— while the following track, “Cantor,” eventually picks up a real head of steam, it begins with the sort of lyric tenderness and rhythmic elasticity redolent in the writing of its inspiration, Argentine composer and keyboardist Guillermo Klein. For this record Zenon has written pieces geared to the strengths of his band, whether the ballad “Corteza,” which was built from a transcription of an older bass solo by Glawischnig, or “Entre Las Raices,” which combines pianist Perdomo’s predilection for free playing with his skill at navigating tricky melodic turns. All eight pieces are tricky in their own way, but in the end Zenon proves his point: his technical dexterity and virtuosic flash never undermine the fiery group interplay.   v

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