Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon signs a new album in the form of a manifesto. It is for him to do justice to the musical diversity of these Americas that he cherishes, he knows them so well – and vice versa. Far from any stereotype latin jazz, even if one suspects that he would not disdain the label, he seizes the history of a continent to which the prefix “under” is too often attached. Let’s reverse the cards, he tells us, and review history in the light of the most excellent and enjoyable jazz.
With a thousand and one nuances however. Like the eruptions of tenderness and anger that emanate from the first composition: woven with a tempestuous swing, it restores the founding opposition between two first peoples of the Antilles, the “gentle Taïnos” and the “fierce Caribs”. The titles are of a certain duration (between seven and nine minutes) because the History and the stories contained deserve to be remembered, a bit like ontological myths. The organization of the musical sequences interferes in the latter, making them almost palpable, more than visual.
This is particularly the case on “Venas Abiertas”: under this title borrowed from the classic published in 1971, “The Open Veins of Latin America” where the Argentinian Eduardo Galeano analyzes the looting of human and natural resources by the colonial powers , the quartet provides an art of fugue and counterpoint between finesse and rage, through interactions taken to the pinnacle, especially between saxophone and drums. More than Zenón himself, it is his saxophone that becomes Bolivarian, a vehicle for decolonizing the minds and bodies of his audience. Poetic, it has something of that magical realism of a Gabriel García Márquez, deploying sentences which, by their interminable and baroque aspect, gaze towards infinity.
The pianist Luis Perdomo also interferes in this quest for the decolonization of imaginations, through a more than consummate art of reversals. Likewise the other traveling companions, such as the double bass player Hans Glawischnig and the drummer Henry Cole, whose art of conversation borrows as much from oral and popular folk tales as from some scholarly “Bachian” temptation. Polyphonies and polyrhythms plunge us into dreamlike universes with anthropological roots, as on “Imperios”, borrowing from some harmony of Aztec origin, or even on “Bámbula” with its 3-3-2 formula typical of the music of the meso- America, and on “Opresión y revolución”, whose volutes of voodoo drums deploy an emancipatory spirituality.
The seriousness of the subject must not make us forget an authentic sense of celebration, like a skilfully disordered ritual, whether it is an invitation to sail while dancing (“Navegando”), or to reconnect with a proud island identity. and joyful (“Antillano”). The whole disc seems designed as a “ready made” live, with bass and drum solos on the last tracks. And if in the end it was all just jazz, seems to be saying Zenón, deploying “Parkerian” accents (a way of recalling Bird’s Caribbean appetite) and “Rollinsian” (ah that furtive quote from “Pent-Up House”, crushed to the dregs…) as a last track? It’s not. And the best.