Live At Jazz Standard NYC
Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet
Every generation of jazz musicians has an individual with the vision to see past the current trends and explore new artistic expressions. Sometimes these musicians lead the music world into new stylistic possibilities, often opening the door onto completely new genres. Mario Bauza saw the inherent possibilities in the mixture between bebop and Cuban rhythms; his experiments in the Machito Orchestra as well as the work that he encouraged with Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo directly resulted in the creation of Latin Jazz. Other times these musicians push the limits of stylistic boundaries, provoking artistic advances. Charles Mingus saw the relationships between extended compositions, jazz harmonies, blues, gospel, and free improvisation, delivering some truly distinctive and groundbreaking compositional techniques. Visionary musicians often find ways to connect their artistry with a wide and enthusiastic audience. Miles Davis saw the popular appeal of rock rhythms and funk, combining it with cutting edge jazz trends to give us fusion. Other musicians will take an artistic concept and crack it wide open, exploring every possibility. Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band saw Cal Tjader’s effective use of small group improvisation and utilized that instrumentation to form a crossroad between modern jazz into Latin Jazz. The results of a musician’s vision can best be seen in hindsight, so it’s often hard to determine the future impact of a contemporary artist’s work; still, in almost every case, the visionary qualities of their work can’t be missed. Drummer and composer Dafnis Prieto demonstrates the vision to step outside established Latin Jazz conventions to create a collection of creative, exciting, and visionary works on Live At Jazz Standard NYC.
Balancing An Original Voice With A Link To Latin Jazz
Several tracks present compositions exploding with original voice that show a strong link to Latin Jazz. In an impressive display of rhythmic independence, Prieto sets up a distinct ostinato over a cascara pattern on “Ilu-Uli” which serves as the foundation for a flowing melody. Pianist Manuel Valera runs a constant stream of notes through his improvisation, using harmonic tension to build the dynamic against the constant ostinato. Saxophone player Peter Apfelbaum cleverly darts around the groove with an impassioned fervor, occasionally letting his statement explore a flowing line for contrast. Bassist Charles Flores freely explores his instrument’s sonic possibilities in an unaccompanied solo that wanders into a collective improvisation from the quartet on “Me Neither” before the melody jumps through stuttering band breaks, a driving cascara, and a sparse funk groove. Apfelbaum carefully winds his way through the various foundations, letting the moving harmonies color his notes choices as he develops his ideas. Valera utilizes an understated keyboard sound to assertively drive flowing phrases through the active background, creating an engaging statement that intelligently wraps around the song’s structure. Prieto presents a spellbinding display of musicality and pure rumbero skill on “Intro Absolute” as he plays a blistering fast rumba clave and scats sings a virtuosic percussion solo. This transitions into a quiet attention grabbing hand percussion feature on “Trio Absolute” which builds into an upbeat melody over a baião groove. Valera and Flores slowly disappear, leaving only Prieto in a stunningly musical and creative demonstration of drum mastery that blends traditional forms, advanced technique, and spontaneous composition. Prieto charges into a furious rumba behind Valera’s tensely syncopated solo, building into an explosion of sound from all three musicians. Prieto smartly draws upon Latin traditions without being hampered by them, presenting strong and intelligent compositions that display his creative voice.
Building Distinct Statements Around Unique Rhythmic Structures
Prieto applies his percussive knowledge to a number of pieces, building distinct statements around unique rhythmic structures. A fragmented drum groove creates an interesting foundation for a running line on “Si o Si” until Prieto moves into a driving 6/8 pattern behind Apfelbaum’s screaming tenor melody. The creative saxophonist contrasts the broken groove with flowing chromatic ideas, while Valera engages the song’s percussive nature with assertive rhythmic ideas that push his solo into a frenzy. Only Flores maintains a steady groove behind Prieto who smartly builds his statement around the choppy foundation with a compositional flair. Valera dives into a bold repeated melodic figure while the band hits strong accents on “Claveteo” and Apfelbaum tears through a wild melody. As the main theme repeats several times, Prieto’s compositional insight shines through the piece as he and Flores develop the theme with differing breaks and rhythmic patterns. The rhythm section explodes into a furiously syncopated background, pushing Apfelbaum’s improvisation into a series of Coltrane-esqe screeches and sequels. The rhythm section aggressively accompanies Apfelbaum’s twisting 3/4 melody on “3 Poems 1 Songs,” as Prieto swings with a Tony Williams inspired fire. Valera intersperses sharps rhythmic jabs with long running lines, provoking active response from Prieto and Flores, before the whole group disintegrates into an open timeless improvisation. A dramatic interlude drives the group back into a steady pulse as Apfelbaum engages in a creative dialogue with Flores, eventually building into a winding and dissonant solo that screams with passion. Prieto creatively twists rhythmic concepts into new ideas on these pieces, combining his core skills with solid compositional techniques to deliver inspiring compositions.
Leaning Towards Modern Jazz
Prieto leans more towards modern jazz on other songs, finding inventive ways to frame improvisations. A lush synthesizer patch fills the sonic space until Apfelbaum’s melodica strikes a dissonant note and Flores enters with a pulsating bass line on “Seven By Seven” paving the way for a melodica duet from Apfelbaum and Valera. As the melody fades into the background, Flores assertively drives a cleverly developed improvisation over the rich open sound of Valera’s synth patch. Flores falls back into his bass line as Prieto takes advantage of the spacious structure and creates a statement around color, dynamics, and timbre. Valera reflectively creates an insightful unaccompanied statement on “Just Go,” taking his time before building into the main melody. The group embeds a painful and searching feeling into a repeated melodic idea, drive home the mood with Apfelbaum’s screeching tone, Valera’s interactive improvisatory comments, and Prieto’s colorful embellishments. Both Apfelbaum and Valera keep this theme close to heart on their improvisations with revealing and wandering solos that seem intimately intertwined with the song. Prieto distinctly avoids a rhythmic pulse and rolls mallets over his drums as the rest of the group freely travels through a mournful and reverent melody on “Thoughts.” Both Valera and Flores apply Prieto’s sense of freedom to the chordal backdrop as Apfelbaum explores carefully understated melodies. This quickly evolves into a conversation first between Apfelbaum and Valera and then the whole group, who carry the idea into a dramatic climax. Prieto calls upon several modern jazz techniques to complete these songs, giving his work a rich connection to modern jazz without loosing his compositional voice.
An Unhampered Vision Into The Future Of Latin Jazz
Prieto and his Si o Si Quartet boldly apply their vision of modern music to the drummer’s originals on Live At Jazz Standard NYC, delivering an outstanding set. The brilliance of Prieto’s compositions lies in several factors that all intertwine and contribute to the overall product. His compositions are intricate and complex, drawing upon Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz ideals, and classical compositional techniques to make a distinctly different collection of music. At the same time, Prieto constructs his pieces with a logic that imbues them with a natural flow. He also integrates plenty of room for self-expression and exploratory improvisation, always understanding that the compositions are only a tool to bring human expression to the forefront. The complexity of his pieces never weighs down his musicians; in fact, their defined structures and unique characteristic seem to liberate the performers. Prieto thrives as a performer in this context; he applies his unbelievable drum chops with a constant sense of taste, a defined musicality, and a keen insight into thematic construction. Apfelbaum radiates with passion and personality throughout the recording, supporting Prieto’s compositions with a fully committed ability to find self-expression within the song. The album benefits tremendously from Valera’s vast harmonic palette, his creative use of synthesizers, his improvisational fire, and his prodigious technique. Prieto and the Si o Si Quartet perform his compositions with clarity, conviction, and personality on Live At Jazz Standard NYC, providing an unhampered vision into the future of Latin Jazz.
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