Plena Libre: ¡Estamos gozando!

Javier AQ Ortiz By

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...after nearly a decade of accomplishments, Plena Libre is honoring several noteworthy figures associated with the type of music they perform by reinterpreting some standards
Plena Libre
¡Estamos gozando!
Times Square Records

In spite of the often quoted nationalistic blurbage found in liner notes, press releases, the printed press and even so-called scholarly sources, the bomba and plena genres aren't a sure fire formula for musical success, nor are they as popular as they are made to be at times. As it is true of assorted other musical styles in current and past history, the plena and the bomba from Puerto Rico have had to be transmogrified in order to lengthen their market reach. In the case, for example, of the justly celebrated binomial of Rafael Cortijo and Ismael Rivera, there was a conscious effort to assimilate bomba and plena with Cuban son and guaracha. Thus, rather than invest themselves in musical archeology, or producing music for mostly archival purposes...à la Paracumbé...Plena Libre aspires to make plena (to a large extent) and bomba (to a lesser degree) viable contemporary musical forms of entertainment. In other words, although it would be impossible—and unnecessary—to uproot such genres from their past musical types and social functions, this group just wants you to party with 'em. And party they do!

This time, after nearly a decade of accomplishments, Plena Libre is honoring several noteworthy figures associated with the type of music they perform by reinterpreting some standards, as well as repertoire not considered as such albeit penned by important authors in these genres. Hence, the recording should prove as marketable as any of their previous efforts. Reinforced with special guests and a renewed staff, ¡Estamos gozando! is a happily infectious exercise of syncopation that swallows up the listener immediately upon exposure.

The two most extended performances are medleys. The last one alludes to a festive occasion on the San Sebastián street in Old San Juan where a massive amount of people gather to celebrate, mostly under the musical guise of plena. Both compositions interpreted in said medley, "Mañana por la mañana and "Voy subiendo, are integral to said festivities now. Herein they are reinterpreted, as Plena Libre has recorded them before, in rather energetic and attractive ways. Luis MarÃ-n's work on piano is to be highly commended, not only in this medley but also throughout the rest of the production. His brief solo on "Lluvia con nieve" rocks! The first medley honors standard repertoire from the Cortijo's combo days, mostly in straightforward bomba ways with the delicious exception of the "Elena toma bombón plena.

"Lluvia con nieve, a composition devoid of lead singers, is one of two...the other being the swinging opener...whereupon guest violinist Alfredo de la Fe performs. Unfortunately, his electric violin can become quite bothersome, as it sounds like a buzzing fly and was mixed too brightly. Trumpeter Charlie Sepúlveda takes a solid closing solo on this swinger that also features bongo player Roberto Rohena, whose playing is fine herein as well as in the closer where he takes one of his signature solos.

The rest of this recording should prove as tasty and enjoyable as William Cepeda's trombone work in "Juan José One must also observe that the singers are youthful winners, as is the arrangement work of Gary Nuñez the group's leader and bassist.

Visit Plena Libre on the web.

Tracks listing: 1. OlvÃ-dalo (A. Torruellas) 2. Canario blanco (D.R.) 3. Qué buena [sic.] son las mujeres (C. Concepción) 4. Tributo a "Rafael Cortijo y su combo : Perfume de rosas (R. Ortiz Ecué), Maquinolandera-E. "Mon Rivera), Elena toma bombón (R. Cepeda Atiles). 5. Lluvia con nieve (E. "Mon Rivera) 6. Juan José (R. Cepeda Atiles) 7. Charlatán (Antonio "ToñÃ-n Romero) 8. Kijis Konar (A. RodrÃ-guez) 9. Lo que a ti te gusta (Manuel Jiménez "El canario ) 10. Medley de la Calle San Sebastián- Mañana por la mañana (DR/José "Mañengue Hidalgo), Voy subiendo (DR)

Personnel: Gary Nuñez-Bass, arranger & musical director. Victor Muñiz-Lead singer (1,2,4,8,10), backup vocals & punteador. Carlos "Kalie Villanueva-Lead singer (4,6.9) & minor percussion. Kayvan Vega-Lead singer (3,4,7,10) & minor percussion. Israel Vélez-Panderos, requinto, punteador & seguidor. Gina Villanueva-Congas, backup vocals. Kevin Vega-Backup vocals, minor percussion & quinto. Jorge DÃ-az-Trombones (Solo 1,9). William "Tato González-Timbales (Solo 10). Special Guests: Alfredo de la Fe-Violin (1,5 Solo 1). Charlie Sepúlveda-Trumpet (3,5). Roberto Rohena-Bongo (5,10). Luis MarÃ-n-Piano (Solo 5). William Cepeda-Trombone (6). Sammy GarcÃ-a-Congas. Cándido Reyes-Güiro. Héctor Calderón-Maraca. Juan Castillo-Harmonica. Charlie Pizarro-Quinto in "Voy subiendo which apparently isn't included in the album. Ángel L. Torres RodrÃ-guez-Baritone sax. Héctor "Pichi Pérez-Maraca, güiro (5), chequere (10). Yanira Torres-Backup vocals. Josué Rosado-Backup vocals. Wichy Camacho-Backup vocals.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Times Square Records | Style: Latin/World


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