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Album Review: Miguel Zenón's 'Esta Plena'
Author: Jacob Teichroew
Miguel Zenón’s Esta Plena is a continuation of the saxophonist’s previous work, complete with exuberant melodies and voluble phrases that float above knotty rhythmic terrain. The core group, featuring pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole, is the same heard on Zenón’s last album, Awake, although Esta Plena is fitted around traditional Puerto Rican plena music.
Plena is a Spanish and African hybrid folk music, performed on three hand-held drums called panderos. The lyrics are expressions of daily life, and often touch on politics and social commentary. For this project, which was funded by the Guggenheim grant he won in 2008, Zenón has fluidly combined his signature sound with the traditional plena rhythms and lyrics of his own devising.
Never do the plena songs sound at odds with the modern jazz aspects of the music. The memorable and simple melodies sung by Héctor “Tito” Matos, Obanilú Allende, and Juan Gutiérrez, the three pleneros (plena musicians), add an element of accessibility to the music. They also provide a counterbalance to the sometimes-loquacious phrases of Zenón’s improvisation.
Like most of Zenón’s work, the music is churning, marked by bombastic gestures and florid embellishments. The rhythms of the panderos however, add extra thrust. Even more so than on his previous high-energy recordings, Esta Plena contains furious tempos and frenetic counterpoints, contributing to a constant state of unrest throughout the album.
October 20th, 2009 on Marsalis Music
* Miguel Zenón – Alto Saxophone, Background Vocals
* Luis Perdomo – Piano
* Hans Glawischnig – Acoustic Bass
* Henry Cole – Drums
* Héctor “Tito” Matos - Lead Vocals, Percussion (Requinto)
* Obanilú Allende - Background Vocals, Percussion (Segundo)
* Juan Gutiérrez - Background Vocals, Percussion (Seguidor)
1. Villa Palmeras
2. Esta Plena
4. Residencial Llorens Torres
5. Pandero y Pagode
6. Calle Calma
7. Villa Coope
8. Qué Será de Puerto Rico?