As their name implies, Puerto Rico's Plena Libre have made their country's native plena rhythm their musical focus. Over the ten years of their existence, they've become one of the country's top bands, and to celebrate their anniversary, they've released this album of covers, their acknowledgement of some of the great composers of the genre. Yet while there's plenty of respect shown their forbears, they make the music very much their own. Leader Gary Nuñez has dedicated his life to plena, and his bass playing underpins the whole ensemble. But it's just one part of the brilliance. The crisp, elaborate layers of percussion move the music along, while the horns and vocals intertwine in careful arrangements that remain full of passion and abandonment. While most of the tracks are short and punchy, they do take the time to work up a fever on the seven minutes of "Tributo a Rafael Cortijo y Su Combo." There's plenty of sophistication on this album, an object lesson in the possibilities of the plena. But more than that, it's a disc that's full of pleasures.
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson