Tag Archives: Puerto Rican music

Plena Libre to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage in New York and Raleigh

Just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated Puerto Rican ensemble Plena Libre will be performing Sunday, September 16, 2018 at SOBs in New York City and Sunday, September 23 at La Fiesta del Pueblo in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The New York performance will be the opening concert of the World Music Institute’s 2018-2019 season. Plena Libre combines traditional Puerto Rican rhythms with modern Afro-Caribbean influences, and folkloric musical roots with contemporary compositions.

The band led by Gary Núñez uses a hard-hitting horn section, master frame drum players, and lush three-part vocal harmonies.

Plena Libre’s mosr recent albums include: Más Libre (RykoLatino, 2000), Estamos Gozando! (Times Square, 2004), Evolucion (Times Square, 2005), Plena Al Salsero (Times Square, 2008), Corazón (Gn Musica, 2012) and Amores en el Camino (Gn Musica, 2017).

Sunday, September 16, 2018, 8:00 p.m.
204 Varick St, Manhattan
Tickets: $20

Sunday, September 23, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
La Fiesta del Pueblo
City Plaza, Fayetteville St. Raleigh, NC


Admired Saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón To Release New Single Milagrosa on August 10, 2018

Miguel Zenón – Milagrosa

Celebrated Puerto Rican saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón will release the single Milagrosa, introducing Zenón and the Chicago-based innovative Spektral Quartet on August 10, 2018.

The single is extracted from the upcoming album Yo Soy la Tradición, an ambitious concert-length work that draws upon the rich folk music traditions of Puerto Rico and expressed through the modernist lens of Zenón’s compositions.

The inspiration for “Milagrosa” comes from the religious practice of La Promesa, making a promise to La Virgen de La Milagrosa (Our Lady of Grace).

Commissioned by the David and Reva Logan Center for the Arts and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Yo Soy la Tradición is a collection of eight works for alto saxophone and string quartet that showcase Zenón and the Spektral Quartet.



Next Zenón and Spektral Quartet Performances

Friday, September 21 -Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, Chicago, IL. Benefit concert for hurricane relief.
Saturday, September 22 – Ripon College, Ripon, WI
Wednesday, November 14 – UMASS Amherst, Amherst, MA
Thursday, November 15 – Villa Victoria Cultural Center, Boston, MA
Friday, November 16 – Kennedy Center Jazz Club, Washington, DC


Masterful Puerto Rican Percussion Labyrinth

Hector “Coco” Barez – “El Laberinto del Coco” (Hector “Coco” Barez, 2018)

“El Laberinto del Coco” is the first solo album from virtuoso Puerto Rican percussionist Hector “Coco” Barez. He has compiled his numerous musical influences (including his work as percussionist for Calle 13 and Bacilos) over a rich foundation of Afro Puerto Rican rhythms called bomba.

The album features a wide range of genres, bridging tradition and contemporary music, from rootsy Afro Puerto Rican pieces to energetic Latin jazz, fusion, powerful rock, irresistible funk and cosmopolitan world music in the form of Middle Eastern and Australian aboriginal musical influences. While most of the album is highly engaging and features masterful percussion performances, fiery brass and superb guitar work, two of the tracks include rapping which is an increasingly annoying vocal form.

Hector “Coco” Barez invited friends from Puerto Rico, the United States, Spain and France’s Reunion Island to participate in the album.



The lineup on the album includes Héctor”coco” Barez on percussion; Amarilys Rios on vocals; Chamir Bonano on vocals; Kiani Medina on vocals; Ellen Cockerham Riccio on violin; Tressa Gold on violin; Kimberly Ryan on viola; Schuyler Slack on cello; Tobias “Toby” Whitaker on trombone; Bob Miller on trumpet; John Lilley on saxophone; JC Kuhl on baritone saxophone; Abiud Flores on bass; Edward Prendergast on bass; Derrick Englert on bass; Todd Herrington on bass; Ben “Wolfe” White on keyboards; Efrain Martinez on drums; Kelli Strawbridge on drums; Reggie Pace on beatbox; Edmer Omi Lebron on electric guitar; DJ Williams on electric guitar; and Andrew Rapisarda on electric guitar.



Buy the El Laberinto del Coco digital download or the CD from ellaberintodelcoco.bandcamp.com/releases


Sublime Salsa by Juan Pablo Díaz

Juan Pablo Díaz – Fase Dos (Juanpi Música, 2016)

Vocalist, songwriter and actor Juan Pablo Díaz is one of the rising talents of Puerto Rican salsa. Fase Dos showcases his talent as a singer and songwriter. The songs on Fase dos feature a wide range of salsa arrangements, from irresistible dance numbers inspired by classic salsa, Cuban son and rumba and Puerto Rican folk music to timeless, nostalgic boleros with lush strings.

It’s not easy anymore to break into the salsa field. Major labels and corporate stations are pushing tiresome commercially-driven reggaeton and hip hop in Puerto Rico so new talents like Juan Pablo Díaz are a welcome addition to the music scene in the Caribbean island.

As a songwriter, Juan Pablo Díaz has demonstrated he’s one of the best lyricists in new salsa as well. He covers topics that range from love to social conscience issues like greed and migration. His delivery reminds me of the great salsa maestro Rubén Blades.

The album features a large cast of superb musicians, including formidable percussion and brass sections.

Fase Dos is a superb salsa album featuring the exceptionally expressive and memorable vocals of Juan Pablo Díaz.

Buy Fase Dos


Extraordinary Plena Journey

Plena Libre – Amores en el Camino (Gn Musica, 2017)

Plena Libre, one of the great Puerto Rican bands rooted in tradition is back with another outstanding recording titled Amores en el Camino. The 12-piece powerhouse combines captivating rhythms like plena and bomba with jazz, salsa and global music elements.

The album opens with “Puerto Rico,” a song dedicated to this beautiful island that has suffered so much recently. This song signifies the Puerto Rican melting pot, where Afro-rooted traditions meet the Spanish poetic and guitar tradition in the form of the cuatro guitar, performed by guest Christian Nieves.

Amores en el Camino contains songs by band leader, bassist Gary Núñez and a new generation of plena songwriters.

On Amores en el Camino you’ll find other remarkable guests such as trumpet meaestro Luis “Perico” Ortiz and the steel drum from neighboring Trinidad and Tobago.

Amores en el Camino (Love’s Journey) received support from the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña and the National Endowment for the Arts.

With Amores en el Camino, Plena Libre demonstrates that it’s a the forefront of Puerto Rican music, showcasing the best of the island’s musical traditions.

Buy Amores en el Camino


Miguel Zenón to Perform Benefit Concerts for Puerto Rico

Miguel Zenón – Photo by Jimmy Katz

Renowned saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón is set to perform with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, featuring Fred Harris, music director, and clarinetist/composer Evan Ziporyn in benefit concerts celebrating the resiliency of Puerto Rican people.

The concerts will take place Friday, March 2, 2018 at MIT in Cambridge, MA; and Saturday, March 3 at Hunter College in New York City.

All funds raised will be donated to the Puerto Rico Recovery Fund.


Christmas in El Barrio with Los Pleneros de la 21 in New York City

Los Pleneros de la 21

Puerto-Rican music ensemble Los Pleneros de la 21 is set to perform Christmas in El Barrio on Sunday, December 10, 2017 at Kumble Theater in Brooklyn, New York City.

Los Pleneros de la 21 draw from Puerto Rican traditions in music and dance, including the drum driven bomba and plena. Christmas in El Barrio celebrates community, family, and cultural identity.

The current lineup includes Juan Gutiérrez, Camilo Molina Gaetán, Julia Gutiérrez-Rivera, Nelson Matthew González, Nicholas Laboy, Zaccai Curtis, Alex Apolo Ayala, Iván Renta, Hommy Ramos, Flaco Navaja, Karenly Nieves, and Gabo Lugo.


iLe of Calle 13 to Perform in Miami Beach, Donations for Puerto Rico will be collected during the Event

Ileana “iLe” Cabra, the young vocalist of Puerto Rico’s acclaimed band Calle 13 is set to perform on Thursday, November 2, 2017, at North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach. The Rhyhm Foundation will be collecting donations for Puerto Rico at this concert.

Ileana will be presenting her new album titled iLevitable featuring exquisitely-crafted boleros, folk songs and Latin jazz standards.



Items Most Needed For Puerto Rico:

Water Filters and Purifiers

Personal Hygiene Products

Babies – wipes, etc
Feminine products
Men – shaving cream, etc
Cotton swabs, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, deodorant, shampoo, soap, etc.

Basic Medications

First Aid Kits
Vitamins for Babies, Children and Adults
Over the counter medicines for Babies, Children and Adults

Basic Products And Portable Solar Energy

Solar powered lanterns, radios and chargers
Hand fans

Non-Perishables, Canned Goods

Low sodium
Canned fruits
Baby formula, baby food

iLe in Concert
Thursday, November 2, 2017, 8:00 p.m.
North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
Tickets $27.50 + fees – Available Online


Artist Profiles: Yomo Toro

Yomo Toro – Photo by Verna Gillis/Soundscape

Yomo Toro, a cultural icon for 50 years, was one of Latin music’s most beloved musicians. Victor Guillermo Toro was born on July 26, 1933 in the Guarnica province of Puerto Rico in Ensenada, where a statue of him now stands in the town square.

He began learning cuatro with his father and during his teens performed with many popular and folkloric groups. He moved to New York in 1956, and throughout the ’60s played with such groups as Ramito and Los Panchos.

From the late ’60s through the mid-’70s he hosted a TV show on Channel 41. In 1970, he joined Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe in recording the classic Asalto Navideño, a groundbreaking album that combined New York salsa with traditional Puerto Rican Christmas music and became one of the best-selling salsa albums of all time.

He was a member of the famed Fania All-Stars, which included such artists as Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Johnny Pacheco, Bobby Valentin, Roberto Roena, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, Cheo Feliciano, and Ismael Miranda, and toured with the band throughout the world.

Yomo Toro

He appeared on more than 150 albums, including over 20 solo albums for Fania, Island, Rounder and Green Linnet Records. He has recorded with such stars as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, David Byrne, and Marc Anthony, made several cross-cultural albums, and worked on the soundtracks of Woody Allen’s Bananas and Crossover Dreams.

In his last years he performed with Larry Harlow and the Latin Legends Band and appeared in the off-Broadway show Sofrito! In addition to performing, he was an accomplished songwriter, particularly of romantic ballads.

In 2012, several press releases came out in June, confirming that Yomo Toro was severely ill, suffering from kidney failure due to many years of high blood pressure.

Yomo Toro died on Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm after more than a month in a New York hospital due to kidney failure.


* Asalto Navideño
* The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, with Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe (Fania, 1975)
* Funky Jibaro (Polygram, 1988)
* Gracias (Mango, 1990)
* Las Manos de Oro (Xenophile Records, 1995)
* Celebremos Navidad (Protel, 1996)
* Celebrando Navidad (Ashe Records, 1999)
* Romantico (1999)
* Musica del Mundo Entero (2000)
* Alma de Ramito (Fania, 2000)
* El Espiritu Jibaro (The Jibaro Spirit), with Roswell Rudd (Sunny Side Records, 2007)
* 24 Canciones Inolvidables de R. Hernandez (Combo, 2008)
* La Herencia (Fania, 2008)


Artist Profiles: Plena Libre

Plena Libre in 2009

Puerto Rican ensemble Plena Libre performs a unique mix of Afro-Puerto Rican plena, salsa, bomba, jazz and other Afro-Caribbean genres.

“Más Libre,”(Freer) was released in October 2000 on RykoLatino. Their eighth recording and third for RykoLatino, came a year after their critically acclaimed “Juntos y Revueltos”. Más Libre drew from an even wider sonic vocabulary – jazz, reggae, salsa, samba, songo, bomba, merengue, and cumbia.

Since their inception in 1994, Plena Libre, led by bassist, arranger, composer and producer Gary Núñez, has become a strong force on the musical scene of Puerto Rico.

Plena Libre was born out of plena jam sessions in which Gary Núñez participated. In those sessions Gary began to focus on this rhythm that had been brushed aside by the more popular salsa and merengue. He also decided to break this genre out of its folkloric mold. Since then, Plena Libre band has been expanding the borders of plena music.

“When I was 20 years old,” remembers Gary, “I met Noel Hernandez, who is now my compadre. He opened my eyes to my Puerto Rican heritage, got me into studying my history and my musical roots. I realized then that, as much as Puerto Rican musicians were known worldwide in many fields of music, the music that was truly traditional to Puerto Rico was hardly known. I wanted to change that, to devote myself to the music that is based on our African heritage, the plena and the bomba. Up to then they were relegated to holiday get-togethers and in danger of disappearing entirely. That’s how Plena Libre, or ‘free plena’ was born.”

Plena Libre has performed hundreds of shows in Puerto Rico, and has toured in the U.S., receiving extraordinary reviews for their performances and for their recordings that have generated over 15 hit songs and sold over 150,000 copies in Puerto Rico alone.

Plena Libre became the first group to hit the charts with a plena tune in almost 15 years with “El Party” from their first recording “Juntos y Revueltos” (1994) that was re-released by RykoLatino (RLCD 1005) for the international market .

In May of 1999 Plena Libre became the first plena group to perform at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum with their unique presentation “Puerto Rico Sabe a Plena”. A crowd of over 5,000 and the critics applauded Plena Libre’s performance that was later broadcast on commercial TV.

Plena Libre

Their list of accomplishments includes an award by the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico’s Legislature (1999), “Fundación Rafael Cepeda” (1997), and an award given by Loiza, the town known as the birth place of the bomba y plena, (1995).


Juntos y Revueltos I (1994)

Cógelo que Ahí Te Va (1995)

Plena Pa’Ti (1996)

De parranda (1997)

Plena Libre Mix (1998)

Plena Libre (1999)

Juntos y Revueltos II

Más Libre (RykoLatino, 2000)

Estamos Gozando! (Times Square, 2004)

Evolucion (Times Square, 2005)

Plena Al Salsero (Times Square, 2008)

Corazón (Gn Musica, 2012)

Amores en el Camino (Gn Musica, 2017)

Web Site: www.plenalibre.com