Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet / Live at Jazz Standard
"Love it when a working band gets captured on a hot night. Jazz boasts several superb live discs, and the Cuban drummer's decision to document his foursome's controlled delirium was a wise move that adds another title to the list. Prieto has made some exciting albums previously, but those who catch him on a regular basis know that the bandstand is where the real action is... He's expert at calibrating his incredible chops to suit the tune at hand. Turn up the volume on Si O Si's work and discover what happens when judiciousness and exhilaration make a deep connection." **** stars
- Jim Macnie, Downbeat
"Ten tracks that display Prieto's masterful drumming and willingness to take risks as a composer. There's great stylistic diversity and emotional range with room for playfulness... Prieto conjures moods by employing folkloric elements, propulsive polyrhythms, and funk-inspired arrangements, all while engaging the ensemble in unconventional dialogues. In his quest to create a sonic realm where the mind and all things sentient can mingle freely, Live at the Jazz Standard represents the latest chapter in an ongoing, trailblazing career."
- Lissette Corsa, Jazziz
"On his fine new release, the irrepressible Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto leads his current working band – with Peter Apfelbaum on saxophones, Manuel Valera on piano and Charles Flores on bass – in a smartly rollicking sort of interplay."
- Nate Chinen, The New York Times
"... some of the most interesting and complex compositions and arrangements I've heard in quite some time. This music is deep, rich and complex and to hear such a world class quartet navigating this music live is an experience not to be forgotten."
- Damian Erskine, Bass Musician Magazine
Dafnis Prieto Sextet Taking the Soul for a Walk
“Drummer Dafnis Prieto’s third release as a leader shows him to be a composer of considerable depth. Taking the Soul for a Walk offers 12 pieces of precise, propulsive polyrhythm and intricate parts. There’s plenty of solo playing, but the power of this music is in the ensemble’s confident communication.
The performances have a sense of community, and despite the structural, harmonic and rhythmic complexity, the music packs an emotional punch… This is a splendid album that stands up to many listenings.” **** 1/2 stars
– Ned Sublette, Down Beat Magazine
“Never has the line between traditional Latin-jazz and 21st-century postbop been so wonderfully blurred as on Taking the Soul for a Walk. Drummer-composer Dafnis Prieto outlines the dance rhythms of his native Cuba, but his sextet adds complexity that evokes John Lewis’ quote about Duke Ellington: ‘His music was
too exciting to dance to.’ … Subversive genre-bending or not, Taking the Soul for a Walk is solidly in the pocket – and it’s glorious.”
– Michael J. West, Jazz Times Magazine
“(Prieto) has transformed Afro-Cuban rhythms to the trap set with a light touch and a gracefully deceptive manner of speeding up and slowing down tempos. These pieces are emotionally charged and stylistically diverse, carried along not just by rhythm but also through lovely harmonized passages, horn fanfares, and
powerfully conjured moods.”
– Larry Blumenfeld, The Wall Street Journal
Dafnis Prieto Absolute Quintet
“In a remarkably fertile period for Latin-infused jazz in New York, the drummer Dafnis Prieto stands out for his energy, his creativity and, perhaps most of all, his borderless musical worldview. Since moving here from his native Cuba at the close of the 1990's, Mr. Prieto, above, has powered a panoply of ensembles ranging from Zooid, a study in shifting timbres led by the multi-reedist and composer Henry Threadgill, to the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, a repertory big band sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center. What those and many other groups have harnessed in Mr. Prieto is a forceful yet flexible sense of groove, derived from traditions of Afro Caribbean hand percussion but also informed by polyrhythmic post-bop. Mr. Prieto mines the same territory as a composer, with impressive results: he has written sweeping arrangements for the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra as well as compact missives for his own small groups.
– Nate Chinen, The New York Times
“Cuban drummer/percussionist Dafnis Prieto is a wunderkind who absorbs various musical channels and influences, not just Afro-Cuban music. His former employer, saxophonist/composer Henry Threadgill, appears on one track here. Marked by his polyrhythmic aplomb within difficult-to-navigate time signatures, the drummer’s second outing for this record label looms as an extension of his previous one. With violinist Christian Howes, keyboardist Jason Lindner and others, the quintet sprinkles the Latin jazz genre with East Indian modal practices, turbulent groove-based movements and more. Prieto’s compositions, which feature strings, horns and fast-moving thematic forays, are firmed up with strong melody lines and breakneck speed diversions. But it all makes near-perfect sense. Not only is Prieto carving out an impressive sideman persona, but he’s also looming as a forward-thinking jazz acolyte who mingles enviable chops with a new approach to modern jazz.”
– Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz
Dafnis Prieto About the Monks
“Since he arrived in New York in 1999, the Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto has
been translating centuries of hand-drum tradition into jazz percussion for the trap set. His playing often involves three fast rhythms at once, and his precision is mesmerizing. At first he was an overbooked sideman with bandleaders as far apart as the avant-gardist Henry Threadgill and the salsa patriarch Eddie Palmieri. But he has developed his own compositional ambitions, and at last here's the result. About the Monks (Zoho), his own first record… some of the best of New York's new Latin-jazz movement, distinguished by complex, jaggedly modern writing, but also by a deep cultural literacy of Cuban folklore.”
– The New York Times (Ben Ratliff)
“If you're curious about new directions in Latin jazz, then let percussionist Dafnis Prieto's About the Monks point the way… Prieto's drumming is kinetic yet never overpowering. He unselfishly allows his band the lion's share of the solos, yet his presence is the heartbeat of the recording.”
– All About Jazz (Mark F. Turner)
"Cuba-born drummer Dafnis Prieto’s debut, About the Monks, showcases a quintet that rests in a Latin groove with the requisite brass and trimmings… Highlights center around Prieto’s tasteful insertion of solo voices… The best stuff comes when Prieto stretches out on his own which is often. His aggressive snare attacks, stop time rhythms and marching-band-like cadences give off a refreshing attitude.”
– Down Beat (John Ephland)
January 17, 2002, Thursday
The New York Times
From Cuba, With Rhythm, Taking Jazz By Storm; Dafnis Prieto Makes His Mark in New York By BEN RATLIFF
Most young jazz rhythm-section players come to New York to study, keeping their eye on the main chance. A few lucky ones hit the jackpot with one of the few regularly touring bands. But the overwhelming majority struggle to keep afloat, and their names might not be singled out for 5 or 10 years or, in some cases, ever.
There is, however, a small tradition of Cuban drummers who hit New York like asteroids -- powerhouses who are expert writers and readers of music, who can teach it and who spur on everyone around them.
Dafnis Prieto, from Santa Clara, Cuba, is the newest one.
Mr. Prieto, a soft-faced 27-year-old with the small, compact build of a soccer forward, came more than two years ago with a work visa from playing American festivals with the American saxophonist Jane Bunnett's group. He quickly became a major force connecting Afro-Cuban roots, the mainstream jazz tradition of the last 40 years and the avant-garde.
''What I really like is that I get to play in different styles,'' Mr. Prieto said. ''Now, since maybe three years ago, Latin music is really developing something from the inside. It's an intuitional change.''
His story reflects something about how the jazz bandleaders' grapevine operates, and about the power of Cuban drummers in jazz since Chano Pozo changed the music irrevocably in 1947 when he came to New York to work with Dizzy Gillespie's Afro-Cuban jazz orchestra.
Mr. Prieto's timing was perfect. By the late 90's, Latin jazz was ready to leap ahead. Among musicians there was an upsurge of interest in all things Latin-American, and young bandleaders from Cuba, Puerto Rico and elsewhere, arriving in New York, created a new, learned synthesis of indigenous song forms and all kinds of jazz.
Since his arrival, Mr. Prieto has played in 15 different groups. In some of these he's been a substitute, and in about half he has become a first-call member. It is not unprecedented for a musician to work so widely, but it just doesn't usually happen so quickly and with such fertile music as a result.
The essence of Mr. Prieto's style is his collation of various Afro-Cuban percussion sounds -- from old religious music to modern music -- within one set of trap drums. His playing is infernally complicated, and infernally precise; the blizzard of accents he throws into any pattern have their place as surely as pixels in a computer image.
One of his first jobs after arriving in New York was with Henry Threadgill's band Zooid. It was a natural fit: Mr. Threadgill, one of the most famous names of the jazz avant-garde, writes meticulously accented music. Since then, Mr. Prieto has worked with Claudia Acu? band, playing mixtures of straight-ahead jazz and traditional South American rhythms like the Venezuelan joropo and the Argentine chacarera.
He has played in Eddie Palmieri's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, making its dance-band makeup more densely percussive. He has performed and recorded with the pianists Andrew Hill and D. D. Jackson, the bassist John Ben?z, the trumpeters Brian Lynch and Roy Hargrove, the saxophonists Steve Coleman and the vibraphonist Dave Samuels.
And he has become a moving part in a new crop of Latin-jazz bands that have been regularly featured at the Jazz Gallery, which has become an important new jazz space in Lower Manhattan over the last two years.
Mr. Prieto lives in the northern part of Washington Heights, at the intersection of Dominican and Eastern European neighborhoods. His building, managed by a Cuban landlord, is a little enclave of Cuban intellectuals -- a few musicians, some computer programmers, products of Cuba's state universities and the old educational system, which funneled Cuban students to Moscow. His wife, the dancer Judith Sanchez Ruiz has worked with him, most recently in a Threadgill performance at Aaron Davis Hall at City College last October.
Mr. Prieto is specific when he speaks about music, pointing to this drummer, that record, that rhythmic structure. When he talks about learning music in Cuba, he uses the word ''information'' a lot, as in ''We didn't have that kind of information.''
A creole, he grew up in a black neighborhood in Santa Clara, a small town about 150 miles from Havana; his father is an elevator mechanic and his mother an accountant at a factory that makes equipment for sugar-cane manufacturing plants. His earliest exposure to music came from the conga players who would practice for the annual carnival in the street outside his house. (''There was a lot of rumba and fighting,'' he recalled.)
He played guitar and percussion, learning traditional son and rumba more formally from age 7 at a community school. He studied classical percussion for four years at a local conservatory before moving to Havana, where he attended the National School of Music, continuing classical studies and beginning to play jazz on the side.
Before leaving school, he was already playing in European jazz festivals. But his exposure to American jazz was spotty. He had studied Elvin Jones's drumming on John Coltrane's album ''A Love Supreme'' and had a fascination, as so many young Cuban musicians do, with the technically fearsome work of the saxophonist Michael Brecker and the drummer Steve Gadd.
In 1996 he was deeply imprinted by a visit to Cuba by the American jazz saxophonist Steve Coleman, who traveled there for a recording project, but also worked with Cuban musicians in other ways. ''With Steve,'' Mr. Prieto recalls, ''more than playing in his band, I did research. I looked at South Indian music; we did a trio project about the sun, moon and the Earth; and we did a thing about yin and yang.'' Mr. Coleman's music is dense, hard, polyrhythmic, scientific; Mr. Prieto, who has an empirical cast of mind, responded enthusiastically.
Mr. Prieto knew that America, and specifically New York, was his destiny, but didn't feel ready to come -- even when he finally came. He approached it in stages. In Cuba, He worked with Jane Bunnett, the Canadian saxophonist; they had first met in Paris, when Mr. Prieto was playing with the pianist Carlos Maza. Later, he joined Ms. Bunnett's band, Spirits of Havana, touring international jazz festivals.
In Canada in 1999, working with Ms. Bunnett, he decided to use the visa that he had already secured to play a few tour dates in America and headed nervously for New York. He has the necessary work permit; to extend his stay, he has applied for residency.
''The kind of music I was doing there in Cuba,'' Mr. Prieto explained, ''was sort of on the side of jazz -- avant-garde Latin music -- and I didn't see myself in Cuba doing that for long. The only guys I saw playing that kind of music were the ones who were already playing with me, so there was nowhere to go."
When Mr. Prieto got to town, he immediately got the job with Mr. Threadgill, and then the circle widened. Brian Lynch, the trumpeter, had met Mr. Prieto at Stanford University in 1998, where Mr. Prieto had gone to attend a jazz-percussion master class via an arts grant. When Mr. Lynch saw him again, he immediately asked him to join his band.
''He brings the intelligence level up,'' Mr. Lynch said. ''He knows form, and he remembers things. He'll be swinging, he'll be in the clave rhythm, but he'll make these little shifts with it -- just a little spurt, where there's an impossibly complex rhythm, but it's all precise. From that, I can go and skitter off into my own direction.''
Eddie Palmieri, the great bandleader of the salsa era and a long-time agent of change in Latin music, heard about Mr. Prieto from the Puerto Rican drummer Paoli Mejias. ''He's extraordinary,'' Mr. Palmieri said. ''A rhythmic stimulus. He comprehends the two most incredibly difficult rhythmic genres -- being Cuban and being an extremely talented jazz drummer.'' Before hiring Mr. Prieto, Mr. Palmieri rarely included a trap-set drummer in his orchestra; his band was generally a conjunto, or a standard Latin dance-band lineup. With Mr. Prieto, he has felt free to experiment.
Among younger players, the drummer has found a close circle of collaborators. Nearly all of them -- horn players, bassists, drummers, pianists -- are bandleaders, and they use Mr. Prieto as a matter of course. Through them, the connection between jazz and Latin is no longer a tenuous linking of formal elements, the borrowing of a scale or a stiffly delineated rhythm. In Mr. Prieto's own music, rearranged danzons jostle against experiments in meter and harmony; his music switches between smoothly cushioned rhythms and spiky ones.
Dale Fitzgerald, who runs the Jazz Gallery, the six-year-old nonprofit performance space on Hudson Street in the South Village, has encouraged the new Latin jazz by booking bands in their nascent stages; he also created an atmosphere in which the musicians like to come and see one another's gigs.
He was the first to book Mr. Prieto's own group, last March, and has just received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs to commission new works and performances from six of the composers who appear there regularly. Mr. Prieto will be one, and will perform with his own ensemble at the club, at 290 Hudson Street, from May 23 to 25. (He will also play there on Feb. 1, in Peter Apfelbaum's group; on Feb. 2 with Ron Blake and on Feb. 15 with Yosvany Terry.)
''I'm learning the tradition of American drumming -- Max Roach, Ed Blackwell, Billy Higgins,'' Mr. Prieto said. ''I didn't have much information about them when I was in Cuba. Also, now, the thing is to go wider. I've started doing arrangements of my own songs, and I'm not just thinking about my own position. I'm trying to be part of the whole picture.''
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet / Live at Jazz Standard