El Arte Del Bolero (Miel Music)

Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo

Released January 2021

Grammy Nominee for Best Latin Jazz Album 2022






As an instrumentalist, I spend a lot of my time working on making the saxophone an extension of my creative process. This process is always filtered through interpretation and expressiveness, and more often than not I find myself looking up to some of my favorite singers (people like Ismael Rivera, Cheo Feliciano and Andy Montañez) as sources of inspiration. In their individual voices I can hear a reflection of their unique personalities, all manifested at the highest level through their interpretation of songs. These melodies become vehicles for their creativity—a canvas on which they’ll portray their feelings and states of mind.
But these are not just any songs. These are songs they have heard hundreds of times, familiar pieces of music they know very well, and that is sort of the way I feel about the repertoire on this album. We chose compositions from the Bolero era that we could just play right away, without giving it a second thought: songs from the times of our parents and grandparents that somehow stuck around long enough for us to get to know them and truly love them. They are all as essential to our development as the music of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk, but perhaps even more familiar. When we play these songs, we can hear the lyrics in the back of our minds—something that provides a very deep connection, one that is hard to replicate in any other situation. It really is almost beyond familiar. These songs are part of us.
We recorded this music as a live show, all in one take, without much preparation other than discussing tonalities and some basic elements on form. We were more than pleasantly surprised with the results and decided that they deserved to be shared. There is nothing like making music with someone else, finding a common language we can grab onto and then just going and exploring that together. We hope this comes across here, and that you enjoy the music.
Miguel Zenón

About The Music

– Como Fue: Popularized by the great Benny Moré, this song has long become a Latin-American standard. Luis and I have been playing the song for years, usually in the key of Eb. We decided to play it in Db here, mainly inspired by a recent immersion into the music of Billy Strayhorn.

– Alma Adentro: A song we previously recorded with a larger ensemble on a 2012 album of the same name. Sylvia Rexach, the composer of this piece, is a favorite of my mother’s, and I was exposed to her music as a young child. This is a song that always brings back feelings of longing and deep nostalgia, a yearning for things no longer there.

– Ese Hastío: Ray Barreto recorded this under the title of “Piensa En Mi” on his legendary 1979 album Rican-Struction, which is the version that Luis and I fell in love with. I had never played the song before, but Luis suggested it since he had recorded the piece as an instrumental on his album Pathways. It ended up fitting perfectly into our program.

– La Vida Es Un Sueño: Written by the Cuban genius Arsenio Rodriguez, a revolutionary artist who changed the course of Latin-American music forever. Blinded by a tragic accident as a child, Arsenio moved to the United States later in life in hope that doctors there could find a cure to his condition. Legend has it that, shortly after finding out from his doctors that this would not be the case, he wrote this song. The last verse says it all: “La realidad es nacer y morir / Porque llenarnos de tanta ansiedad / Todo no es mas que un eterno sufrir / El mundo esta hecho de infelicidad.”

– Que Te Pedí – Immortalized by Latin diva “La Lupe” in her seminal 1965 version (recorded with Tito Puente), this song has since become an anthem for lost love and heartbreak all over Latin-America. We had performed this before, but this was the first time we played it as a duo.

– Juguete – This classic, written by the legendary Bobby Capo, was popularized by Cheo Feliciano on his 1972 album La Voz Sensual de Cheo. It’s certainly of those songs that is constantly quoted everywhere and never gets old. We’ve been playing it for a while and decided to do it a little faster here, with an extended vamp at the end to close things out. 

Track Listing:

1. Cómo Fue 07:57

2. Alma Adentro 09:45

3. Ese Hastío 06:47

4. La Vida es un Sueño 09:42

5. Que Te Pedí 07:11

6. Juguete 10:25


Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone
Luis Perdomo: piano

Recorded live September 28, 2020, at The Jazz Gallery, NY, by Edward Gavitt
Mixed by Danilo Pichardo and Miguel Zenón
Mastered by Danilo Pichardo
Graphic Design by Abdiel Flores, WIGO Design
Produced by Miguel Zenón


How good can sax-and-piano duets get? If alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón and pianist Luis Perdomo hadn’t recorded their Jazz Gallery livestream from last September, we wouldn’t have a new answer to that question. “We recorded this music as a live show, all in one take, without much preparation other than discussing tonalities and some basic elements on form,” Zenón said in a statement. “We chose compositions from the Bolero era that we could just play right away, without giving it a second thought.”

The result is El Arte del Bolero, wherein Zenón, who hails from Puerto Rico, and Perdomo, who’s from Venezuela, plumb an ocean of Latin-American standards and emerge with tunes that are maximum-haunting in this context, like the Benny Moré-popularized “Como Fue,” Cuban mastermind Arsenio Rodriguez’s “La Vida Es Un Sueño,” and Puerto Rican composer Bobby Capó’s “Juguete.”

El Arte del Bolero’s presentation is low-key—Miel Music gave it a digital-only release in January—but that belies how gorgeous it is. When the slow-tempo bolero form is stripped back to only two components, the compositions enter a new plane of luminous beauty. Such ultra-spareness might turn into wallpaper in lesser musicians’ hands, but every line Zenón blows has a dramatic trajectory and harmonic integrity, and Perdomo conjures majestic spindrifts beneath each one.

Endlessly listenable, emotionally probing, and ECM-level atmospheric, El Arte del Bolero is a treasure box you’ll return to again and again. Not bad for two guys in an empty venue during a pandemic, finding solace in tunes they’ve known all their lives. 

Morgan Enos (JazzTimes)