A delightful aspect of writing about music is discovering talented individuals worthy of recognition. I came across Alfonso Fuentes, a pianist, composer, and arranger while watching “La Musica de Puerto Rico Raices y Evolucion,” an educational series by William Cepeda. Fuentes’ rendition of the classic Plena, “Cortaron a Elena,” left me spellbound. Soon after, I found out about his debut album, “Plena: Improvisaciones Para Piano” (Plena: Improvisations for Piano, 2018).
Plena reflects Fuentes’ Caribbean, Antillean, and Latin American surroundings and Puerto Rican roots, recorded impromptu over three sessions and in two separate locales.
The songs “Cortaron an Elena” and “Plena for Critical Thinkers” are inspired by traditional Puerto Rican Plena. “Montuno #1” and “Montuno #2” combine salsa and Latin jazz elements. “Memorias Campesinas” has a romantic European feel, with underlying rhythms that combine Puerto Rican Seis, Milonga, and Celinés elements. “Walking Bass” fuses North American jazz and Arabic rhythms brought to Puerto Rico by the Spanish conquest. “La Ponchinela de Cangrejos” is a tribute to the renowned dancer Maria Ortiz Sadmones, also known as “La Ponchinela”. Lastly, “Cancion Para Thais” is a dedication to Fuentes’ daughter.
I highly recommend Plena, which marks the solo debut of a maestro whose artistry goes beyond conventional categories and dispels notions about “typical” Puerto Rican music. It is one of the most innovative Puerto Rican recordings in recent years.
ABOUT ALFONSO FUENTES
Alfonso Fuentes Colón is a Puerto Rican composer, improvisation concert pianist, poet, and educator. His work has been performed by various renowned orchestras and ensembles such as the Sichuan Philharmonic, Sinfonia Varsovia, Puerto Rico Symphony, Across the Grain, American String Quartet, Warsaw Wind Quintet, and members of the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Phil, Yoyo Ma Silk Road Ensemble, among others. His compositions have also been played by distinguished soloists, faculty, students, and guests of several American universities, including Michigan, Wisconsin-Madison, Yale, and institutions across three continents.
As the former Interim Dean of Academic Affairs and current Associate Professor at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, he has successfully developed and implemented new teaching resources.
Fuentes has been a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University, a Residence composer, and a visiting artist at Music Mountain Academy, and has visited universities such as Albany, Virginia, Hunter College-CUNY, Sichuan Conservatory, Capital Normal University of Beijing, among others. He has also participated in various music forums in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. His piano performances comprise over six thousand global presentations across the music industry spectrum.
Fuentes’s creation has been nominated for a Latin Grammy as Best Contemporary Composition and is discussed in prestigious academic publications and doctoral dissertations in China, Spain, and the USA. Media outlets on cultural topics review him frequently and have advocated before the Legislative Assembly for the development of music creation and local music employment in his beloved Puerto Rico.