Consisting of much more difficult compositions than Zenón’s previous Marsalis Music album, Ceremonial, his newest CD offers two major discoveries: (1) the originality of the music that continues to surprise and delight the listener with sinuous intertwining lines, sudden stops and starts and polyrhythmic intensity; and (2) the impressive talent of the 28-year-old Zenón, whose playing is not only a powerful technical achievement but also attains a feel for the music and an obvious affection for the culture from which it arose. Shrewdly enough, Branford Marsalis signed a rising star who is likely to grow, quickly enough, to become one of jazz’s leading saxophonists. Jíbaro certainly confirms that.
In addition, Zenón’s quartet consists of musicians who possess the same feel for the music. The fact that they can stop of a dime or create opposing yet complementary rhythms attests to their camaraderie when performing Zenón’s music. Zenón says that he "sometimes write music that is too difficult to play," and indeed it’s hard to imagine other alto saxophonists playing his music with the same level of verve and dynamics, performing it as an exercise instead of as spiritually based folk music that it is.
Zenón’s music darts and weaves and jabs, often contrasting with the lines of the bass and piano, as if they were going in different directions, though they’re connected motivically and rhythmically. And the Jíbaro structure appears to consist of building upon a single melody, as such as that of "Llanera," as that melody, at first simple enough, undergoes alterations and improvisation that mirror and then transform the original song. "Enramada" is a bravura performance as Zenón plays an urgent free-rhythm introduction, to which pianist Luis Perdomo applies calmness and beauty after it settles into its main theme. "Seis Cinco" sets up rumbling piano lines under Zenón’s pointillistic dotting of the melody. Then "Jíbaro" appears to consist be a song of two influences, the rippling jazz-based introduction by Perdomo leading after an understated treatment of the melody into Zenón’s Jíbaro- based element of repeating the motive until the rippling, jaw-dropping conclusion of the chorus.
Paying homage to Jíbaro rather than duplicating it, particularly due to the fact that a horn is never used to play its music (until now), Miguel Zenón has written ten pieces that cover the various facets of the subgenre, thrillingly at that. In the process, he infuses the centuries-old traditional music with a fresh perspective while bringing it to the attention of a world of listeners who had never before heard Jíbaro.