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Featured review: MIGUEL ZENON, "Esta Plena"
Electrifying, reverential and profound, "Esta Plena" is a never-before-seen melding of plena and Latin jazz, as coequal partners. Though Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon had experimented with his native island's folk rhythms on the earlier Jíbaro, this is a much deeper foray into ancestral territory. <<READ MORE>>
Briefly, plena is a portable, improvised, drum and vocal ensemble known as "the newspaper of the streets," built around three panderos (frame drums similar to tambourines without the chimes). Five of the tunes on "Esta Plena" are named for neighborhoods in Santurce--a working class suburb outside San Juan that has been a hotbed of plena--where Zenon spent time growing up. Zenon is joined on the rest by some of Puerto Rico's top plena musicians, led by Hector "Tito" Matos. Plena has largely been neglected up until now as fertile ground for jazz (vs. the oft-adapted Afro-Cuban rhythms); Zenon opens that long-awaited conversation with this boldly conceptualized, yet personal homage.