Miguel Zenón at The Village Vanguard 2/11/18 (by Kazemde George)

PERSONNEL: Miguel Zenón (alto saxophone), Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass), Henry Cole (drums)

SET LIST: Quitate de la Via Perico (Rivera), Las Tumbas (Rivera), Ciclo (Zenón), Sangre De Mi Sangre (Zenón), Las Ramas (Zenón)

HIGHLIGHTS:  Henry Cole’s playing throughout the night was inspiring. He plays with a sensitive touch, without losing the full dynamics of the drumset. And by emphasizing the ‘big beat,’ he makes even the most complex rhythmic structures feel like 4/4, while also catching every intricacy of Zenón’s compositions with accurate subdivisions.


Zenón started the set with his arrangements of two songs by the Puerto Rican Salsa singer and composer, Ismael Rivera. On “Perico” he took only the minimum from the original song, utilizing a few simple riffs as jumping-off points for extended improvisations and his signature polyrhythmic, multi-meter inventions. “Las Tumbas” began with a more standard treatment, a lyrical solo by Perdomo giving way to an honest recitation of the melody by Zenón, before transitioning into a high-energy revamp of the original song’s introduction. A third section in 6/8 served as a solo form for the saxophone. In his solos, Zenón puts on display his piercingly beautiful tone and purposeful dexterity.

The band demonstrated their ability to flawlessly execute their leader’s most involved rhythmic structures when needed, but never overemphasized any specific motif. Both Glawischnig and Cole can confidently mark the more complex forms and hits without sounding confined. By extrapolating away from prescribed hits and playing over the bar-lines, they created a very free environment for improvisation without ever losing their bearings. Perdomo’s sparse and sometimes non-existent comping contributed to this open feeling, which gave way to more clear structures only at critical pre-orchestrated moments. The arrangements and compositions were geared towards improvisation, but featured diverse sections often with different solos happening over different forms, and with functional transitions between sections and songs.

Zenon ended the set with “Las Ramas” from his most recent album, Típico, a slowly-paced melody juxtaposed by constant metric modulations in the rhythm section. The song concluded with a drum solo over a syncopated vamp marked by the whole band, a concise thesis statement for the evening.

by Kazemde George