14 years in the making, “Les Jardins Mystiques Vol.1” comprises 52 tracks / 3.5 hours of music composed, arranged and produced by Miguel with contributions from 50+ friends including Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, DOMi & JD Beck, Jeff Parker, Carlos Niño, Austin Peralta, Bennie Maupin, Gabe Noel, Jamael Dean, Jamire Williams, Burniss Travis II, Deantoni Parks, Josh Johnson, Marcus Gilmore and many more.
Based in his hometown of Los Angeles, Miguel is one of the preeminent musicians, orchestrators, arrangers and composers of our time. “Les Jardins Mystiques Vol.1” is his long-awaited inaugural album. It presents us with a passionate statement of intent, a labor of love, and a realm of beautiful possibilities.
“Les Jardins Mystiques” is a project that throws open and shares Miguel’s musical universe. It took shape over a dozen years, largely self-funded by Miguel, and showcasing his distinctly elegant musicianship (on violin, viola, cello and keyboards among other instruments) alongside his free-spirited dialogues with more than 50 instrumentalists. Volume 1 is the first in a planned triptych, which will collectively comprise ten-and-a-half-hours of original, refreshingly expansive music. Miguel connected with his guest musicians in versatile ways: through convivial studio dialogues; over remote communication during the pandemic era; and via the energy of live performances at LA venues including Del Monte Speakeasy (the gorgeously invigorating, piano-led “Dream Dance”) and Bluewhale (including “Ano Yo” with vivacious alto from Devin Daniels, and the cosmic harmonies of “Cho Oyu”). Bennie Maupin, the legendary US multi-reedist whose repertoire includes Miles Davis’s fusion opus Bitches Brew, plays bass clarinet on the entrancing opening number, “Kiseki”.
“Les Jardins Mystiques” reflects Miguel’s ethos that music is a natural, vitally unaffected life force. The titles across Volume 1’s tracks draw from international languages and traditions, including Spanish, Swahili, Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Japanese and Hebrew, as well as the Buddhist practice that has been key to Miguel’s life since his twenties (“It’s very joyous and very hard, because it says that there’s no retirement age in human revolution,” he says). The tracks contrast in length, from “Zarra”’s vivid burst of analogue synths to the alluringly chilled melody of “Kairos (Amor Fati)”, yet there’s a gloriously unconstrained flow throughout, and each piece seems to unfurl and blossom into its own wondrous world.
The blissfully radiant “Airavata” derives its title from the white elephant who carries the Hindu deity Indra: a divine being associated with elemental forces. It features Miguel on electric guitar (recorded then reversed to mesmerizing effect) and acoustic violin/viola, alongside bassist Gabe Noel and cellist Peter Jacobson. The stirring “Tzedakah” alludes to a Hebrew and Arabic concept of philanthropy and righteousness, and incorporates soulful bouzouki and oud within its multi-instrumental whirl. The vividly emotive piano melody “Mångata” is inspired by a Swedish word that describes the moon’s undulating reflection on water.
“To me, playing music in any kind of setting is like swimming in an ocean of sounds and emotions and vibrations,” he says. “It’s the combination of all these different rivers, right? Western European classical music is an intense love and passion of mine; all the different genres within jazz music are a joy to practice and have given my life so much meaning; electronic music, world music, and all these different things I’ve been exploring all these years.”
“I just want to be an enabler for magic and empowerment, everyone and everything. I believe in people… and I think that this is a very benevolent multiverse we’re living in. I feel like everything has infinite worth. That’s why I tried to have the diversity of tracks on there; every one is a mystical garden, in my opinion.”