A distinct pleasure of music writing is discovering and occasionally rediscovering talent worthy of recognition. I discovered pianist and composer Alfonso Fuentes’ breathtaking interpretation of the classic Plena, “Cortaron a Elena,” while viewing William Cepeda’s educational series “La Musica de Puerto Rico Raices y Evolucion” (currently unavailable). Shortly after, I learned about Fuentes’ debut recording, “Plena, Improvisaciones Para Piano” (Plena, Improvisations for Piano, 2018).

Recorded impromptu over three sessions and in two separate locales, Plena reflects Fuentes’ Caribbean, Antillean, and Latin American surroundings and Puerto Rican roots. Or, as he describes it, his “Puertoricanness.”

The songs, Cortaron a Elena and Plena for Critical Thinkers, draw inspiration from the Puerto Rican folkloric Plena, a.k.a. “the sung newspaper.” Montuno #1 and #2 juxtapose elements of salsa and Latin jazz. Memorias Campesinas has a romantic European feel, and the underlying rhythms combine elements of Puerto Rican seis, milonga, and celines. Walking Bass fuses North American jazz and Arabic rhythms brought to Puerto Rico by the Spanish conquest. La Ponchinela de Cangrejos salutes the renowned dancer Maria Ortiz Sadmones, a.k.a. “La Ponchinela.” Lastly, Fuentes dedicates Cancion Para Thais to his daughter.

Plena – Improvisaciones Para Piano Teaser

Plena marks the solo debut of a maestro whose artistry transcends conventional categories and dispels notions about “typical” Puerto Rican music. In my opinion, it is one of the most significant and innovative recordings to come out of Puerto Rico in recent years. Highly recommended!


Alfonso Fuentes Colón is a Puerto Rican composer, improvisation concert pianist, poet and educator. His work has been performed by the Sichuan Philharmonic, Sinfonia Varsovia, Puerto Rico Symphony; Across the Grain, American String Quartet, Warsaw Wind Quintet; members of the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Phil, Yoyo Ma Silk Road Ensemble and many others. By distinguished soloists, and faculty, students and guests of a score of American universities including Michigan, Wisconsin-Madison, Yale, and institutions and places in three continents. 

As 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 have been Visiting Fellow in Princeton University; Residence composer and/or visiting artist in Music Mountain Academy;  universities of Albany, Virginia, Hunter College-CUNY, Sichuan Conservatory, Capital Normal University of Beijing among others; and participated in various music forums in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela. His piano performances comprise over six thousand global presentations across the music industry spectrum.

A Latin Grammy Nominee as Best contemporary composition, Fuentes’ creation is discussed in prestigious academic publications and in doctoral dissertations in China, Spain and USA. Frequently interviewed by media outlets on cultural topics and has been an advocate before the Legislative Assembly for the development of music creation and local music employment in his beloved Puerto Rico.


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A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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