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Miguel Zenón ‘Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook’
Publication: Boston Globe
Author: Bill Beuttler
Date: August 29, 2011
Having devoted previous albums to modern jazz interpretations of the jibaro and plena folk-music forms of his native Puerto Rico, the brilliant alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón is now doing the same for the island’s popular music. On “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook,’’ Zenón’s longstanding quartet - including pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole, augmented by a 10-piece wind ensemble - offers boldly virtuosic reworkings of two tunes apiece from five of Puerto Rico’s most beloved songwriters. Zenón keeps the melodies recognizable but takes rhythmic and harmonic liberties in making the songs his own. Bobby Capó’s “Incomprendido’’ is transformed into a balladic tribute to Ismael Rivera, the singer who made it a ’70s salsa hit; conversely, Capó’s ballad “Juguete’’ is taken vibrantly uptempo. Bolero masters Rafael Hernández and Pedro Flores get similar rethinking, and salsa’s ’60s-era political conscience Tite Curet Alonso gets tapped for tunes revealing his lyrical side. Best of all are those by Sylvia Rexach, a favorite of Zenón’s mother. But everything here is dear to Zenón, and it shows.