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Esta Plena

Miguel Zenón

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Album Review

Following the release of his previous album, 2008's Awake, Miguel Zenón was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship "genius grant," the latter alone putting half a million bucks in his pocket with which he could do anything he wanted. He used at least some of that cash to create Esta Plena, an album that expands on 2005's roots-conscious Jíbaro by linking traditional Puerto Rican plena music with modern jazz technique. In the album's liner notes, Zenón provides an in-depth explanation of the history and musical properties of plena, a folkloric style born of the poor class in a barrio in southern Puerto Rico. Its lyrics, he explains, tell of the lives and struggles of those people, and while the music has continually evolved since its inception, it still pays its respects to its roots. Here it evolves yet again as Zenón marries the time-tested form to his modern jazz sensibilities. He is a superb, dynamic alto saxophonist and a visionary bandleader, and working with a cast of ace contemporary players — pianist Luis Perdomo, acoustic bassist Hans Glawischnig, drummer Henry Cole (all three of whom appeared on Awake), lead vocalist/percussionist Héctor "Tito" Matos, and background vocalists/percussionists Obanilú Allende and Juan Gutiérrez — Zenón finds the place where the traditional plena and contemporary jazz, both of which share African roots, meet up and become something new together. From the fiery opening instrumental, "Villa Palmeras," through the vocal numbers, Zenón melds his well-defined melodicism with intricate rhythms and harmonies, allowing plenty of space for his fellow musicians and vocalists to contribute to the story. Perdomo, particularly, is a major factor: a masterful pianist, he virtually serves as a second leader here by co-crafting the melodic direction with Zenón. On tracks like the midtempo "Pandero y Pagode," the swinging "Oyelo," the sizzling "¿Qué Será de Puerto Rico?" (spotlighting drummer Cole), and the epic instrumentals "Progreso" and "Villa Coope," Zenón and his crew create music that is full of life, history, richness, and realness.

Customer Reviews

Stunning!

First off, I'm shocked that I'm the first to write a review of this record on itunes. That being said, I'm elated. The compostions are complex and intense. Effortlessly incorporating, even alternating, Jazz and Latin sounds within the same piece. Besides some amazing melodic content, it is beautifully, rhythmically challenging. The performances are top notch and at times blistering! This is truly a recording of substance.

SUPERB!!!

Deconstrucción exquisita de la plena fusionada con jazz latino. Inspirador, analítico, auténtico y "ajibara'o". Bravo Maestro Zenón, Bravísimo...

Latin Jazz at its finest!

This is a superb album that mixes Puerto Rico traditional percussion with exceptional Jazz tunes. Listening to the latin percussion beats takes me back to the culture I know so well. This could very well be a masterpiece in Latin Jazz circles. Lyrics are so meaningful as well. Great album.

Biography

Born: 1977 in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón is one of a select group of jazz musicians who have successfully navigated the often contradictory poles of innovation and tradition. A multi-Grammy nominee, he has developed a unique voice as a composer and conceptualist, concentrating his efforts on perfecting a fine mix between Latin American folk music and jazz. In addition to his numerous dates as a bandleader, Zenón has worked as a sideman with Charlie Haden, David Sánchez, Ray Barretto, the Mingus Big...
Full Bio

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Esta Plena, Miguel Zenón
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  • $9.90
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Jun 15, 2010

Customer Ratings

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