Miguel Zenón and his quartet honor Ismael Rivera with ‘Sonero’

    An homage to El Sonero Mayor.

    Miguel Zenón Sonero Ismael Rivera quartet album
    Miguel Zenón. Image: Noah Shaye

    Grammy-nominated saxophonist Miguel Zenón and his quartet have released Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera, a record honoring the late Puerto Rican composer and salsa singer.

    The album’s title references a type of vocalist who improvises their lyrics and melody over choruses. Rivera, who died in 1987, was dubbed “El Sonero Mayor”—that is, the leading improviser.

    Sonero comes to life thanks to how Zenón and his longtime quartet build on their 15 years of experience and chemistry to channel the spontaneity that defined Rivera’s legacy. The 11 tracks from Rivera’s canon explore a range of moods, telling different stories from his life. “Las Tumbas,” for example, documents the singer’s time in prison, while “Colobó” captures the experience of living in the Puerto Rican town of Loiza Aldea.

    “When people talk about him, they talk about him as you would about a legendary figure,” Zenón said in a press release of Rivera’s importance to Latin America and the Caribbean. “One of my main goals here is that I want everyone to know about him.”

    Listen to the album below: