Jazzwise Gives Esta Plena Four Stars
One of my lasting memories of the recent London Jazz Festival was the outstanding gig by Miguel Zenón’s Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s playing music from this brand new album. Regrettably Luis Perdomo couldn’t appear because of visa problems, but the French pianist Laurent Coq who deputised at 24 hours notice, sight-reading the most intriquate arrangements imaginable, was excellent. There were no vocalists or percussionists, just Miguel, Hans, Laurent and Henry Cole, but because they’ve been playing tunes “live”, good as the record is, the extended on-stage interpretations now have even more deep-rooted grooves and an excitement that makes one wish they’d re-record the whole album at the end of their tour. As Miguel’s well researched liner notes explain, the entire record is of Plena music, which is basically working-class Puerto Rican street corner, carnival music, heavily influenced by bamba and jibaro and other Caribbean rhythms, infused with the spirit of contemporary jazz. The record is much more Latin than the “live” performance. Zenón, who started out with David Sanchez, then scored heavily with the SF Collective, plays with enormous passion (more so perhaps than on his previous records as leader) and the group empathy is exceptional. Perdomo, Glawischnig and Cole work so well together. Peromo is a virtuoso pianist (try ‘Villa Coope’), Hans (a revelation live) excels on ‘Progresso’, while Cole’s lengthy solo on the remarkably commercial-sounding ‘Que Sera de Puerto Rico’, both live and on the record, is one of the most intelligent and beautifully constructed drum fests of recent years. A vibrant and successful integration of two contrasting music forms, without either being compromised.