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Grammy nominees PLENA LIBRE reinvent Puerto Rico’s traditional music;

San Juan group continues its musical “Evolución” with US summer tour

Continuing the success of their latest CD “Evolución” (Evolution), three-time Grammy nominees PLENA LIBRE bring their Afro-Caribbean 13-member ensemble back to the mainland this summer with dates including Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing and Chicago’s African and Puerto Rican festivals. Plena Libre bring their distinctly hot fusion of Puerto Rico’s folk traditions and Latin jazz, creating a sizzling mix of plena and bomba beats with salsa and other Caribbean rhythms, the uniquely New World sound of San Juan. West Coast fans will be celebrating the group’s recent appearance on KRON-TV’s syndicated LatinEyes series, which won the show it’s first Emmy Award.

PLENA LIBRE Evolución Summer 2006 Tour Dates:

Friday June 30
Peoria, IL Riverfront Landing

Saturday July 1
Chicago, IL Chicago Summerdance/Grant Park

Monday July 3
Providence, RI Waterplace Park

Thursday July 6
New York, NY Lincoln Center Midsummer Night Swing

Friday July 7
Huntington, NY Summer Arts Festival

Monday July 10
Schenectady, NY Central Park

Tuesday July 11
Bronx, NY St. Mary’s Park

Thursday July 20
New York, NY Joe’s Pub

Friday July 21
Bridgeport, CT McClevy Green

Sunday July 23
Boston, MA Puerto Rican Festival

Friday August 18
Colorado Springs, CO Pike’s Peak Library

Saturday August 22
Seattle, WA Triple Door

Wednesday August 23
Portland, OR Oregon Zoo Amphitheater

Friday August 25
Carlsbad, CA TGIF Jazz in the Park

Tuesday August 29
Oakland, CA Yoshi’s

Saturday September 2
Chicago, IL African Festival for the Arts

Sunday September 3
Chicago, IL Puerto Rican Festival

Sunday Setpember 10
Philadelphia, PA TBA

It has been eleven years since Plena Libre burst onto the musical scene in Puerto Rico with a fresh sound that was different, danceable, and experimental, a sound that re-discovered and revitalised the Puerto Rican plena. Prior to the group’s debut, plena was a neglected genre, an Afro-Rican style with its history rooted in the island’s migrant agricultural communities. Plena Libre (or “liberated plena”) charts a new course for the folkloric genre, bringing plena to the top of the radio charts in Puerto Rico and securing three Grammy nominations in the U.S. On October 4th 2005 Times Square released their 11th CD, aptly titled Evolución (Evolution,) TSQ-CD- 9048)

Going against the prevailing currents of the Latin commercial music scene, which was mostly centered on salsa and ballads, San Juan-based Plena Libre created a unique presence for itself. They have become ambassadors of the new sounds of Puerto Rico, taking their updated blend of roots music to many parts of the world. In addition to their Grammy nominations stateside, the San Juan-based group has received multiple awards in their native country.

For Plena Libre, Evolución marks a new level of creativity and confidence. The core of the band’s repertoire remains the danceable plena, the folkloric form that was born 100 years ago and served as a “musical newspaper” for itinerant farm workers. Along with the plena, with its signature trio of panderos (hand held drums playing interlocking rhythms), on this CD the group also updates the bomba, a genre that derives from African traditions brought by slaves to Puerto Rico, boasting over thirty rhythmic patterns played on barriles (barrel like drums). Evolución also presents an expanded sound for the group, amplifying its trombone section with baritone sax and incorporating the flute, classical and electric guitars, vibraphone, Puerto Rican cuatro and accordion for additional color. The core repertoire is further expanded using a variety of rhythms and styles – the Brazilian samba, complicated 6/8ths, and African touches of the bata, the descarga (jam) style of the Latin jazz tune, and even a club remix bonus track. In short, the tracks on Evolución preserve the essence of traditional plena and bomba styles but pulse with the new-found freedoms given them by Gary Nuñez, the band’s leader and arranger, and the musicians.

Plena Libre’s current lineup features founder/composer Gary Nuñez on bass, vocalists Wichy Camacho, Pole Ortiz and Victor Velez, and Plena Libre veteran Kaly Villanueva. The powerhouse rhythm section includes veteran William Gonzales (timbales), and new members Gadwin Vargas (congas, bata, and percussion), Charlie Pizzaro (panderos) and keyboard player Pedro Bermudez. The group’s swinging horn section includes old-time trombonists Jose Cruz and Cesar Ayala, complemented by the new sound of Roberto Calderon’s baritone sax.

Two Puerto Rican folklore legends are special guests on Evolución. Don Angel Luis Torruellas , now in his 70s, is “La Leyenda Viva” or living legend of traditional plena and bomba. His muscular rendition of his classic composition “Yenyere” shows he remains in fine form. Andres Jimenez, or “El Jibaro,” is one of most celebrated singers from the Puerto Rican countryside, and he demonstrates his mastery of the improvisational decima style, here trading verses with Plena Libre’s Pole Ortiz on “Canto a Puerto Rico.”

It has been more than a decade since Gary Nuñez baptized the group with the name Plena Libre, aiming to break musical and cultural boundaries. Their new CD and U.S. tour dates are now more borders crossed for this extraordinary group.