Miguel Zenón

Música de Las Américas
(Miel)

Saxophonist Miguel Zenón, bassist Hans Glawischnig and pianist Luis Perdomo hooked up with drummer Antonio Sánchez around the turn of the millennium and started rehearsing at the bassist’s apartment, working very often on Zenón’s growing book of compositions. For many of us, the first recorded glimpse of the Puerto Rican saxophonist was on Glawischnig’s rather good album Common Ground for Fresh Sound, which also featured David Sánchez and Donny McCaslin. Zenón made his debut as a leader a couple years later for the same label’s New Talent imprint, using basically the same forces. Looking Forward was the first fruit of his pan-American vision, an approach that has steadily evolved and developed in the two decades since, culminating in 2021’s Law Years, an account of Ornette Coleman’s music.

A title like “Opresion Y Revolucion” or “Imperios” might sound like overly familiar rhetoric, but Zenón’s musical understanding of these concepts is deeply nuanced, and so when he brings his sequence to an effective climax on “America, El Continente,” that is exactly what he is trying to capture. It’s not the Monroe Doctrine in music; nor is it an outbreak of Guevarism; nor does it lump different musics together as Latin, to reverse the title of an earlier Zenón disc. Here, identities are not interchangeable. The new one is an astonishingly rich unfolding of a heritage so complex it sounds like it might be the first in a long sequence of recordings by a group perfectly weighted and equipped to work through those implications. More importantly, it sounds damn good. —Brian Morton