Michael Eckroth Group To Release New Album: “Plena”

Pianist, Composer Michael Eckroth Presents New Album Plena. Featuring Special Guests John Fedchock and Brian Lynch, Due out October 15, 2021 via Truth Revolution Records.

Truth Revolution Records is proud to announce the October 15, 2021 release of Plena, a new album by renowned pianist and composer Michael Eckroth. On this eight-track collection of original music, Eckroth has assembled a brilliantly cohesive set that maintains a firm relationship with the foundations of Afro-Latin jazz while actively seeking new avenues of expression. “I was looking to create music that was lyrical, modern, and true to its Afro-Latin roots, but never purist in its approach,” he shares. The resulting work is a mesmerizing Latin jazz set that embraces a wide variety of musical lineages. 

Equally at home playing straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, and a plethora of Latin American and Caribbean styles, the Phoenix, Arizona-native has enjoyed a fruitful career as a bandleader and sideman. A GRAMMY nominated artist, Eckroth’s releases have been received with universal praise and his skills as a pianist and keyboardist have made him a regular fixture on the New York jazz scene commanding the attention of such staple names as John Scofield and Sheena Easton. Recently, Eckroth gained further acclaim as the co-founder of Orquesta Akokán, one of the most invigorating Cuban mambo bands in recent history; their self-titled 2018 release featuring Eckroth’s arrangements went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Tropical Latin Album. 

Album cover: Michael Ecroth Group – Plena

Eckroth comes to the fore on Plena, his first full-length release as a leader since 2015’s well-received Piano + Rhythm. The musicians on Plena, which is named in relation to the folkloric music from Puerto Rico, prove to be important contributors exemplified by galvanizing performances by bassist Alex “Apolo” Ayala, drummer Joel Mateo and ubiquitous percussionist Mauricio Herrera. Together, these world-class musicians command attention from the opening moments of “And So It Goes”, laying a solid foundation for Eckroth to let loose. The veteran saxophonist Peter Brainin is a fresh secondary solo voice, laying down a mesmerizing soprano saxophone performance on “Superspreader”, a tune that at times recalls the very best of Hermeto Pascoal’s output. 

The music on Plena relies heavily on the superimposition of disparate harmonic and melodic elements with the rhythms of bomba and plena. The title track “Plena” features the ensemble playing a melancholic melody over a slow but effervescent plena rhythm with the percussion section augmented to a great effect by Carlos “Carly” Maldonado. A standout moment is a lyrical solo by bassist Ayala who navigates the harmony with strong melodicism and inviting tone.

The track serves as a blueprint of sorts for the entire project. Eckroth explains: “I’ve felt inspired to incorporate the bomba and plena rhythms of Puerto Rico in this band’s music, partially because of what Joel and Alex bring to the table, and partially as a way to expand the rhythmic repertoire of the group.” A central element to the recording, the role of the percussion in the compositions has been comprehensively considered. “There is a deliberate dialogue between the percussion of Carly Maldonado and the compositional elements I’ve presented, as well as references evident in the playing style of the other musicians,” Eckroth illustrates. 

Firmly in the jazz tradition, “Invernadero” is a post-modern contrafact over the changes of the standard “What Is This Thing Called Love”, showcasing the dynamic rhythm section in bassist Edward Pérez, drummer Juan Felipe Mayorga, and percussionist Samuel Torres. 

The undeniably cool “Soul Cha” features seasoned trombonist John Fedchock blends seamlessly with Brainin on the head, and then shines on a short but masterfully crafted solo. The Grammy-winning trumpeter Brian Lynch lends his distinct voice on “Exotic Particles”,  a composition that would be equally at home on a 60’s Blue Note record – or a classic Latin jazz LP. 

Throughout the album, Eckroth demonstrates a keen aesthetic sense in blending folk traditions with modern jazz compositions. “Like much of Latin jazz, this is a fusionistic approach, as I’m not attempting to recreate folkloric playing styles,” the bandleader shares. “This is carving out an individualistic path, all with respect to the creators of these varied folkloric and jazz forms.” The experience and mastery of Eckroth and his cohorts make Plena a delight to listen to, and a worthy addition to the bandleader’s already stellar discography.

Source: Lydia Liebman Promotions

Danilo Navas
Danilo Navas
Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, Toronto Music Report. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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