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Miguel Zenon at his best


Miguel Zenon, "Tipico" (Upcal/Miel).

So just how international is jazz anyway? Glad you asked.

Consider the alto saxophone in current jazz. Its ruling trinity, without question is composed of Filipino-American Jon Irabagon, ferocious Amer-Indian soloist Rudresh Mahanthappa and Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon.

Zenon has just released one of his best records by far, "Tipico." This is a monster jazz quartet with Zenon on alto, Luis Perdomo on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Henry Cole on drums. This band, says Zenon, has been together for more than a decade. Listen to the opening tune ironically titled "Academia" in observance of his gig at the New England Conservatory where he gives his students rip-roaring exercises to hone their chops. He blazes with his own on the kind of awe-inspiring play that his bunch of 21st century alto players produce with such articulation and clarity.

His records of the recent past have involved larger, less intimate groups. I don't think those groups could possibly improve on the kind of group communication that happens so routinely here. His group, he says, is "a family of sorts" after all this time. Their music together is terrific. One of the great jazz discs of the year, thus far.

4 stars (out of four)


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