It takes but a few bars of “Rosario”, the first chart of Yo Soy la Tradición, by composer and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón to realise that this music is special. By the time you get to the end of the recording – eight magnificently-sculpted works performed by Mr Zenón with the Spektral Quartet – you will be in absolutely no doubt that this is his magnum opus. There are several reasons why; not the least among them is that this work for solo alto saxophone and string quartet is one of Mr Zenón’s most impressionistic works, full of shimmering and diaphanous textures that recall not only Debussy but also an extraordinary celebration of the alto saxophone played in a classical music style. Mr Zenón’s playing is so flawlessly pure and there is a wholly natural feeling to the way he executes the climaxes and sudden changes of direction in this perfectly judged performance. Moreover the saxophonist and the Spektral Quartet parlay so subtly and seamlessly that one senses musical dialogue is taking place between old friends deeply immersed in tradition.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Miguel Zenón: Yo Soy la Tradición
Indeed tradition is what Mr Zenón is pursuing from the perfumed heaviness of the spiritual opening chart and the rapturous “Milagrosa” through the heraldic beauty of “Promesa” and the stately unfolding of the poetic movements in the secular vein. The arabesques of “Cadenas” and the intensity of “Yumac” and “Viejo”, the rhythms and cadences of “Cadenza” and “Villabeño” the richly mysterious mood of this extraordinary music is beautifully sustained. Clearly this is the most ambitious work that Mr Zenón has ever undertaken and it must also rightfully be judged as one of the greatest homages to the culture of Puerto Rico. Mr Zenón has long-since championed the musical topography of his beloved island, bringing to life the joie de vivre of people who have triumphed in the face of the relentless colonialism of the United States of America.
Most memorable of all, this is music by Mr Zenón, as performed together with the Spektral Quartet, ascends the rarefied realm of music associated with the finest recordings by such quartets the Arditti Quartet and the Kronos Quartet. It is full of glinting lights, mysterious depths, expectations, frustrations, hopes and doubts which in the sheer colour and variety, depth of characterisation and the exceptional range and refinement of Mr Zenón’s virtuosity achieves a “bigness” that many performances today have not achieved. Much of this is due to the fact that Mr Zenón is also a master of mood and atmosphere, with an ability to coordinate colour and structure to a rare degree. And Yo Soy la Tradición consistently reveals his exceptional virtuosity and resourcefulness in bringing a beautiful musical tradition to life.
Track list – 1: Rosario; 2: Cadenas; 3: Yumac; 4: Milagrosa; 5: Viejo; 6: Cadenza; 7: Promesa; 8: Villabeño
Personnel – Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone; Spektral Quartet – Clara Lyn: violin; Maeve Feineberg: violin; Doyle Armbrust: viola; Russell Rolan: cello
Released – 2018
Label – Miel Music
Runtime – 1:01:53