Los Pleneros De La 21 Para Todos Ustedes

This is one of the most exciting records of the year. It is by far the best example of Smithsonian Folkways’ commitment to recording the modern folk traditions of New York City. Named after a bus stop in Puerto Rico, Los Pleneros De La 21 are experts in the bomba and plena rhythms of Puerto Rico. Part of what makes this disc so interesting and one of the reasons it’s on Smithsonian Folkways is that Los Pleneros are a non-profit organisation, not simply a band. They make their own instruments, they are advocates for their culture, and they want to connect their community to their music any which way possible. That’s where the well-executed rap on "Chiviriquiton,” the funky slap bass on "Isla Nena” come in — a wide range of contemporary influences fit in their rhythmic context, they’re just showing newcomers how to get into it. Elsewhere they stretch out their arrangements, as in the tour de force "Baila, Julia Loiza,” which keeps changing up its rhythms over the course of six minutes. The Patrice Rushen-like harmonic shifts and stop-on-a-dime tempo changes of "Echando Un Pie” give it an epic quality. The album closes on a spacey note with "Semillero,” which features the curious touch of toy instrument sounds. This is no basic, stripped down folkloric recording; it’s a sophisticated, relevant and terrifically funky survey of the rhythmic gifts of Puerto Rico. (Smithsonian Folkways)