Risk is the title of the chapter that the Jazz series of Ken Burns dedicates to bebop and, although bebop has ceased to be a novelty, jazz continues to advance and good musicians continue to appear capable of risking, giving everything to find that (eternal) new path that is the risky essence of jazz. In the disc of saxophonist Xose Miguélez there is only one theme that could be classified as bebop, but his taste for risk is appreciated in the way he seeks atony and how to break the rules, an aesthetic as diffuse as the cover of the album but that offers good listening results. The album is titled Ontology.
Let's start by saying that the album has been published in the United States by Origin Records, and that it was awarded in May at the Mart'n Códax Awards in the category of Jazz and Improvised Music. But, to listen to this album, we have to start at the end: the last cut of the album, a Galician ballad interpreted by Miguélez's great-aunt and collected by the Swiss ethno-musicologist Dorothé Schubart 40 years ago. A set of 4 notes of this ballad, incredible as it may seem, is the melody on which the other nine tracks of the album are based. Curiously, the idea did not come from Miguélez but from another one of the musicians of the disc, the also tenor Matt Otto. The title of the album, Ontology, is related to that metaphysical search of the relations between being and the world and, of course, with its past, a search that has its continuation in the second theme, with an eloquent title ("Chasing Myself" ) ...
In this way, the traditional melody inherited by Xose Miguélez, becomes a modern and avant-garde jazz, of classic root but looking for the new, the personal, the risk in the atonality and the nonconformity, that continuous fight of the jazz against the norms. The old Galician ballad sounds like a mixture of Dexter Gordon and the new styles of New York ("Sweet Delia"), to bebop ("Missed Call"), to avant-garde that transmutes into jazz fusion with the guitar solo of Storm Nilson ("Under The Big Tree") or, as in the case of "Chasing Myself", a distorted mainstream, with that contrast between the classic vibraphone touch and the electronic sound of the EWI, a dialogue that breaks against a single classic and powerful sax in which the personality of Miguélez is imposed.
In short, very different aesthetics that serve to appreciate the ability of Xose Miguélez to express himself within jazz with many voices and a single personality. As a composer, it is evident that he wants to express each and every one of his concerns as a musician and, as a musician, he perceives a deep experience and the ability to always go further.
I leave you with the video of "Sweet Delia", a classic ballad that, in the arrangements, risks looking for a not so clean, not so classic sound. Note that the stereo of the recording places Miguélez and his guest, the tenor Matt Otto, separated, one on each stereo channel (or on each earphone, if you prefer), passing the melody with a delicacy difficult to achieve in the tenor and playing to answer here and there; and also note that the aesthetics of the images is very noir (despite being in color), with that melancholy of music that drags a distant feeling of blues and that is so inherent in the night.
The album was recorded at the Roof Top Media studios in Kansas City, MO, between August 11 and 13, 2018. The musicians on the album are: Xose Miguélez (tenor sax), Storm Nilson (guitar), Ben Leifer (double bass) and electric bass), John Kizilarmut (drums and, surprisingly, also flamenco cajón), Peter Schlamb (vibraphone) and Matt Otto (tenor sax, EWI and producer). Translated from Spanish