First Listen: Miguel Zenón, 'Típico'

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The covers for Miguel Zenón's recent albums are almost worth buying on their own: evocative, full of personality, compelling as storytelling.

All of which also describes the music contained within.

Típico is Zenón's 10th album as a saxophonist and leader. He has carved out a unique path for himself as an interpreter of the music of his native Puerto Rico through the lens of cutting-edge, acoustic jazz. This isn't the kind of jazz that is influenced by Afro-Cuban music and percussion. The compositions he writes for his long-standing quartet bristles and pops with the excitement of vision of his peers, a generation that is challenging and changing the aesthetic of jazz. In fact, Típico is not an album of cultural exploration but rather a delightful meditation on the collaborative spirit of his quartet.

I bet Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Henry Cole (drums) had no idea of the depths of improvisation and exploration they signed on to when they fell in with Zenón more than 15 years ago. But indeed they have become one hell of a band, each contributing an important part of the whole. In his liner notes Zenón says this album is about collective identity and every track is a reflection of friendship, creativity and purpose.

Típico is a portrait of a band lost in thought with smiles on their faces as they reach that elusive moment when it all comes together and they are thinking, and playing, as one.

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