Bar code: 8427328421195
"Miguel Zenón, the star pupil of the Berklee in Puerto Rico program associated with the Heineken Jazzfest, is Looking Forward in his first release to assorted musical inroads in jazz through a noteworthy effort. The only three tunes he did not write, for example, are superbly handled and given attractive new profiles under Zenón's scalpel-like alto sax, touched with darkened matter full of life.
As a self-avowed Christian, Zenón opens and closes with musical compositions in lieu of prayers. Both pieces, although brief, are self-contained in meaningful performances.
In 'Looking Forward,' and 'El Bloque,' Zenón pairs his alto with David Sánchez's tenor. The comparisons between the two will be inevitable as their careers interject significantly. What, however, would be the result of such an assessment? Is Zenón too close to Sánchez? Does Zenón already have a well-developed sense of self-identity that would warrant immediate contrasts? Well, buy the record and be the judge. What is my judgment on the matter? Zenón is Zenón and Sánchez is Sánchez.
In 'Yochabel,' the piano work of Luis Perdomo grabs your immediate attention giving Zenón's flurries plenty of support and daring new collective levels to emerge.
'Pequeña Serenata Diurna' presents a jazz treatment based on a song from Castros Silvio Rodríguez. Although the Spanish title suggests a daytime serenade, this surely is not a static ballad. Zenón receives full attention and the lady says yes in the end and invites him in.
'Campanitas de Cristal,' originally authored by one of the most prominent Latin American composers, is one of my favorite songs ever; therefore, my opinion on this remarkable reinterpretation by Zenón is biased. This is the most advanced instrumental interpretation of this composition I have ever heard. Hats off to the bassist Hans Glawischnig who does enrich this session and the rest of the recording with his own take on the varied crossroads that play a part in Looking Forward.
'Anxiety,' which is the human biological response to fear and the flight or fight response, is well represented through free jazz forms in this tune, which would work better if the vocals wouldve faded out at some point rather than becoming an ongoing distraction. The songs sung and the rhythms played are taken from the Bomba musical Puerto Rican traditions. The free jazz on top is fantastic!
'El Bloque' reminds one of a tennis match and will get your head bobbing from side to side with its Bomba-like rhythmic base. Such fun surrenders into matters more pensive when Sánchez, as mentioned before, appears on this tune trading rhetoric worthy of the best Greek orators.
'J.S.B.' is Bach dressed in jazz attire designed by a South American clothier. Venezuelan Luis Perdomo, once again helps to speed matters along.
For those of us who had plenty of opportunity to slow dance to the passionate 'Alma con Alma' during our adolescence, hearing such a Classic in the hands of Zenón is both a thrill and a treat. These fellows have a strong harmonic romance with the compellingly fine-looking melody and it shows in how they make love to it.
'El Cruze' is a term musicians use to describe someone who is off beat, particularly those who have to deal with keeping certain types of music within the domain of the Cuban clave time pattern. Is this tune off-clave? Does it matter? This performance would be the equivalent to the ubiquitous jam session, or descarga, expected from almost any type of Latin Jazz player. There is, however, much more here than a jam session. Just as the rest of the album, this tune is so enriched that one sitting will not do justice to its treasures - Latin or otherwise."
Javier Antonio Quiñones Ortiz -All About Jazz
"For those of you who adhere to the notion that youth is wasted on the young, think again. Take for instance, the extraordinarily talented Miguel Zenón, who is all of 25 years "old."
In his short but remarkable career Zenón has performed and recorded with a diverse array of artists and groups; Danilo Pérez, William Cepedas Afro Rican Jazz, the Either Orchestra, John Benítez, Gabriel Rodríguez, Brian Lynch, The Village Vanguard Orchestra, the Jason Lindner Big Band and the Grammy nominated David Sánchez Sextet.
It is difficult to comprehend that the saxophone was not Zenóns first instrument of choice, however, as he tells it, "When I arrived at the "Escuela Libre de Música" in Puerto Rico (at the age of 11) I really wanted to play the piano but they there were too many piano students, so I had to choose another instrument. I had taken some music lessons and had a saxophone (which I could not play) so I decided to stick with the sax."
Moreover, Zenón was not so sure he wanted to be a musician at all! He was far more interested in "science, mathematics and other stuff." As time passed he warmed up to the idea of pursuing a career as a musician.
Zenóns formal studies began when he received a scholarship from the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival. He then attended the Berklee School of Music, where he received the Berklee Best Scholarship Award, the Cameron Weber award and a grant from the Corporation of Musical Arts of Puerto Rico. In 1998 Zenón received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Manhattan School of Music where he received his Master in Saxophone Performance (2001).
Looking Forward marks the first step in Zenóns musical journey as a leader. "What I am trying to achieve is to present the listener with a vision of the way I perceive music at this point in my life. I (also) felt that I had to get some of my music documented in order to keep evolving and growing as a musician. This would encourage me to come up with new ideas and write new material."
The music is a fusion of jazz, Latin, American, classical music and folkloric Puerto Rican rhythms. Zenón calls it, "a musical entity."
For example, "J. S. B" was inspired by Johanne Sebastian Bach and is based on "Prelude and Fugue #3 in C -Sharp Major." "Yochabel" (named after Zenóns sister) is a fusion of plena and straight-ahead jazz. "Anxiety" is an idea inspired by the 20th century composer Charles Ives and saxophonist Ornette Coleman that combines free form improvisation and shades of Bomba. "El Bloque" was inspired by the music of Igor Stravinsky and features a Bomba rhythm called "Holandes." It was written to accommodate the alto sax (Zenón) and tenor sax (David Sánchez) trading improvisations throughout the composition. "Campanitas de Cristal" is an updated version of a classic Rafael Hernández composition and "Alma con Alma," is a luscious ballad by Juanito Marquez.
Artistic freedom was a key factor in Zenóns decision to record for Fresh Sound (his record label), "I chose Fresh Sound because they were the only record company that offered me complete control over what was going to be done musically and total freedom in terms of production."
The band is a combination of colleagues, friends and musicians Zenón admires: David Sánchez (tenor saxophone), Hans Glawischnig (bass), Pernell Saturnino (percussion), Luis Perdomo (piano), Antonio Sánchez (drums), Diego Urcola (trumpet), Ben Monder (guitar) and William Cepeda (bomba drums, vocals). "I chose the musicians because I love them as players and felt that they could contribute something to the type of 'fusion' I was trying to achieve."
Zenón sums up his philosophy, "My intention was to create a musical melting pot by exploring the endless possibilities and combining various musical elements. I look forward to seeing this type of music evolve in the future. It is an ongoing creative process that I hope to build on with time and experience."
Thomas Peña -Latin Jazz Network
"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."
David R. Adler -All Music Guide