Here's a quick update on Plena Libre, who played a great first show at the Meadow Stage last night, dishing a healthy fusion of Puerto Rican bomba and plena with salsa, rock, and Latin jazz.
If you didn't see this band, check them out Saturday at 9:30 pm at the Dance Tent.
Rafi Falu, requinto; Marcos Lopez on timbales
Band member updates: Since their last Shakori gig in 2008, Rafi Falu continues on requinto, the lead drum in plena. Also returning are Kali Villanueva and Victor Velez, both of whom are lead vocalists. Singer Pole Ortiz isn't back though; he left Plena Libre to form his own band. (According to Victor, it's called SalBomPlen, and the two groups performed together recently in Puerto Rico.) Bassist Gary Nuñez still leads the group, and his son Chris Nuñez completes the plenero lineup.
Kali Villanueva and Victor Sorpresa Velez; Gabo Lugo on congas
There are some new faces from last time, notably, two formidable young percussionists who are current students at Berklee: Marcos Lopez, timbales, and Gabo Lugo, congas. (If I got the story right from Victor, Marcos is a grandson of Sammy Ayala.)
There were two trombonists (and I missed one's name--TBA). One of them, Jerry Rivas was showing me his with a "Thayer trigger" (if I got that right), which gave his tenor trombone a deeper sound. This small variation was cool and reminded me of the conch shells sometimes played in bomba. Jerry studied music at the Conservatory in Puerto Rico, and says this style of trigger is favored by classical players. (He also had a nifty electronic tuner that clips on to the bell, which he was using backstage.) I was also meeting keyboardist Jonathan Montes for the first time.
There's nothing like a Shakori crowd, they are open to anything. It doesn't take lessons or even a partner to dance to the "free plena" of Plena Libre. At the end, the guys jumped into the crowd to get us singing call and response style into the microphones.
Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, Oct. 7-10
Rafi on congas (in place of barriles) during a bomba