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Saxophoist Miguel Zenón pays tribute to jazz giant Ornette Coleman

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Saxophoist Miguel Zenón pays tribute to jazz giant Ornette Coleman
Demian Cabaud, Ariel Bringuez, Jordi Rossy and Miguel Zenón PHOTO: courtesy of Ariel Bringuez

Alto saxophonist and Berklee alumnus Miguel Zenón and an international quartet of musicians commemorate renowned jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman with their new album, “Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman.”  With Ariel Bringuez on tenor saxophone, Demian Cabaud on bass and Jordi Rossy on drums, the album features seven tracks of Coleman’s unique melodies, a tribute to the musician’s pioneering work.

“As I listen to the music, it almost feels like a different time, a time when we weren’t afraid to be close to each other,” says Zenón. “A time when we could still play in a packed room, with the audience right in front of us, and just feed off their energy.”

“Law Years” will be released March 12 to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer and Bandcamp. The release celebrates the late Coleman’s birthday, March 9.

Zenón first heard Coleman’s music as a teenager. He was struck by the smooth and unconventional blend of sounds. Zenón refers to it as a musical freedom — not chaotic and disparate, but also not confined to the traditional harmonic progressions that many jazz improvisations rely on. Coleman’s music demonstrated an artistic liberation that’s inspired him ever since.

“There is freedom there, and lots of it,” says Zenón. “But there’s also a deep sense of cohesiveness and structure. And, above all, melody: beautiful and inspired melodic lines that serve as springboards for everyone involved.”

When Zenón was invited to a residency at Bird’s Eye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland in May of 2019, he decided to channel this love of Coleman’s music into an album. Little did Zenón know how relevant the notion of freedom would become in the next year of pandemic lockdowns. Now the group listens to the album with pride and a little wistfulness, eager to be able to bring energy and live music to the public again.

This group of musicians had never played together before recording “Law Years” but their chemistry and shared enjoyment of the music were instantaneous. The collection of musicians strikes Zenón as another extension of Coleman’s musical freedom. “I’m Puerto Rican, Ariel is Cuban, Demian is Argentinian and Jordi is Catalan,” he says. “The fact that we are all from different parts of the globe and all Spanish speakers raises another important point: Jazz music knows no boundaries or labels; it is as inclusive now as it has ever been.”