Miguel Zenón & The Rhythm Collective – Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico

More than just a Jazz album, this is an historical document. Miguel Zenón & The Rhythm Collective Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico was recorded live at Taller Cé, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico on December 27th, 2007 and January 2nd, 2008.

This is not a studio date, nor is it a typical live recording. These are four friends (Miguel Zenón, bassist Aldemar Valentin, drummer Tony Escapa and percussionist Reynaldo De Jesús) getting together to play live for a lucky group of fans and friends. And this recording captures the energy of those two nights all throughout the seven tracks, all Zenón’s originals except Tito Puente “Oye como va” and Silvio Rodriguez “El Necio”.

Let’s put this recording in its historical context. This is the end of 2007, beginnings of 2008. Those who have been following Miguel Zenón’s trajectory, remember that 2008 was the year Zenón received a fellowship from the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. A significant moment in his career since it was that fellowship that allowed him more freedom to continue his exploration of Puerto Rico folk music in the following albums: Esta Plena and Alma Adentro. So the virtuosismo and maturity people have grown accustomed to expect from Zenón were already well developed at the moment of this recording. And his partners in crime, Escapa, Valentin and De Jesús are also sharp and in top form.

Since there are no other harmonic instruments besides Valentin’s bass, Zenón has the space to let his imagination run free and display his breathless energy and amazing technique on each improvisation. Zenón relies in the hard rhythmic foundation of Valentin, Escapa and De Jesús.

Zenón’s distinctive style of quick runs and stops can be appreciated on his melodic variations on Tito Puente’s “Oye como va”, while Valentin’ subtle bass keeps the pulse of the tune and Reynaldo De Jesús’ percussion increased the energy at the end of the track.

“El Necio” has kind of a South American feel to it and brings Valentin’s bass to the front. Here Valentin was able to display his clean technique, and his rhythmic lines and solos. Zenón’s intense lines seamlessly flow in and out of the rhythm section while Valentin’s melodies at the end takes the tune closely to the original Silvio Rodriguez’ song.

“Hypnotized” is a more calm, introspective and reflective theme. Zenón’s improvisations are more elongated on this one and his melodic adventures, at times borders the dissonance sounds of the avant-garde.

“JOS Nigeria seems to be based on African rhythm patterns, probably from Nigeria. It is the theme with the more accessible melody lines and steadier groove.

Zenón’s improvisations fly above Valentin’s intense bass pulse and De Jesus and Escapa’s percussive heat on “Double Edge”, an exciting track that decreased in intensity only for brief moments.

Zenón and The Rhythm Collective first came together for a US State Department mission to Africa in 2003. This is the reunion of those four friends for a music exploration.

Track Listing: Oye!!! (Intro), Oye Como Va, El Necio, Hypnotized, JOS Nigeria, Double Edge, The Edge (Outro).

Personnel: Miguel Zenón – alto sax, Aldemar Valentin – electric bass, Tony Escapa – drums, Reynaldo De Jesús – percussion.

Miguel Zenón on the web: miguelzenon.com

Label: CD Baby | Release date: May 2013

Reviewed by: Wilbert Sostre

Wilbert Sostre
Wilbert Sostre
Member of the Jazz Journalist Association since 2010. Member of the Ponce International Jazz Festival Commitee. Studied music and guitar, 1985-86. Music studies at the University of Puerto Rico and the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico, 1986-1990.

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