Founded in San Juan by bass player/composer Gary Nuñez, Plena Libre is well into a 15-year voyage that has seen the orchestra re-invent the sound of Puerto Rico's plena and bomba traditions. During that time, Gary and his group have recorded 12 stellar albums which have garnered four Grammy nominations. In taking their unparalleled live show to the World, the group has spread the gospel of their unique Afro-Rican sound on international jazz festival stages from Montreal to Milan and Denmark to Veracruz, as well as to Performing Arts venues like the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, Dartmouth College's prestigious Hopkins Center and all the way to obscure outposts in the likes of Lake Okoboji, Iowa. Recent years have seen Gary and the band blend contemporary cumbia, merengue, salsa and other Afro-Caribbean sounds into their mix to create a unique sofrito borinqueño that is pushing the plena and bomba well into the future.
With Gary securing some of the Island's top players for his band, Plena Libre has aptly transcended their humble beginnings – evolving into a powerhouse force that is undoubtedly one of the elite heavy-weight live orchestras on the current Latin music scene.
Alongside his wife (and band manager) Valerie Cox, Nuñez has chartered his band through a career that reflects a lifelong commitment to the music and culture of Puerto Rico. "When I was 20 years old," said Gary, "I met Noel Hernandez, who is now my compadre. Noel opened my mind to help me find out what was Puerto Rican about me, my identity and, my music. That got me into studying my history and my music and into playing both Puerto Rican music, and music from other countries. I realized that even though Puerto Rican musicians are known worldwide in many fields of music, the music that is truly traditional to Puerto Rico is hardly known. I wanted to do something about that and devote myself to it. After a few years with a group that worked with jibaro (mountain music of Puerto Rico), I decided to delve into the Puerto Rican music that is based on our African heritage; the plena and the bomba. That's how Plena Libre was born. The rest is history…"