Latin Jazz JAM Session #6: Esta Plena, Miguel Zenón

by chip on April 6, 2011

Esta Plena
Miguel Zenón

Album Year: 2009

Latin Jazz Style: Puerto Rican Jazz

Why You Should Hear It: There’s a great deal of investment from the Puerto Rican community into Latin Jazz, but the island’s traditional music has generally been overshadowed by Cuban rhythms – a fact dramatically altered by Esta Plena. Not to say that Puerto Rican music had never been heard in Latin Jazz before this – trombonist Papo Vazquez has recorded quite a few important mixtures between jazz and Puerto Rican rhythms and saxophonist David Sanchez had explored the possibilities. Esta Plena pushed the hybrid in a new direction though, bringing Puerto Rican traditional music into the realm of distinctly modern jazz harmonies and melodies. Tunes like “Villa Palmeras” and “Residencial Llorens Torres” highlight the best of Zenón’s ability to nimbly fly through contemporary melodic ideas, his quartet’s modern harmonic approach, and the rootsy drive of his three percussionists. Vocal pieces like “Que Será de Puerto Rico” and “Esta Plena” connect Zenón’s group to the style’s folkloric roots while leaving plenty of room for the saxophonist’s flights of impassioned improvisation. Pianist Luis Perdomo serves as a major voice throughout the album, providing solid support and insightful improvisational statements that bridge the distance between jazz and Puerto Rican music. Zenón confirms his role as one of his generation’s most insightful improvisers and arises as a musician deeply connected to his Puerto Rican roots. Esta Plena ably carries Puerto Rican Jazz into the twenty-first century, finding a meaningful connection point between tradition and the future of jazz.

Important Musicians On The Album:

  • Saxophonist Miguel Zenón
  • Pianist Luis Perdomo
  • Bassist Hans Glawischnig
  • Drummer Henry Cole
  • Percussionist Héctor “Tito” Matos
  • Percussionist Obanilú Allende
  • Percussionist Juan Gutiérrez
  • Interesting Facts About The Album:

  • In 2008, Zenón was honored with both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. The money from these awards allowed him to do the proper research required for Esta Plena and facilitated the recording of the album.
  • Although Zenón was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he didn’t hold a deep understanding of Plena before this project. After years immersed deeply in the modern language of jazz, Esta Plena was a chance for him to get back to his roots.
  • The liner notes to Esta Plena contain extensive information about the history and culture surrounding the deep tradition of Plena, making the recording not only a great collection of music, but also a wonderful chance to learn more about the style.
  • If You Like This Album, You Might Want To Check Out:
    Jibaro, Miguel Zenón
    Awake, Miguel Zenón
    Ceremonial, Miguel Zenón

    Jazz Appreciation Month is a great time to get people excited about Latin Jazz and help spread the word about this important music. Every action counts and helps ensure the future of survival of the style. Plan ahead and think about what you can do to make a difference during Jazz Appreciation Month – let us know what you’re going to do in the comments! Let’s all take this opportunity to support Latin Jazz and share it with the world!

    Check Out These Related Posts:
    Album Of The Week: Esta Plena, Miguel Zenón
    Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix: Guillermo Klein
    Latin Jazz In The 2000s: A Diversification Of The Style
    Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix: Puerto Rican Jazz

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