Dafnis Prieto is easily the most impressive young drummer to come on the jazz scene during the past decade. Possessing awesome virtuosity and astonishing versatility, Prieto has made important contributions since arriving from Cuba to the music of a broad range of leaders, from Eddie Palmieri and Chucho Valdes, to Steve Coleman and Henry Threadgill, to Claudia Acu'a and Michel Camilo. On About The Monks , his debut as leader, he's joined by veteran trumpeter Brian Lynch and fellow recent arrivals saxophonist Yosvany Terry, pianist Luis Perdomo, and bassist Hans Glawischnig. The cohesive unit burns through a program of original music by the precocious percussionist on which he proves himself to be a composer with abilities equal to those he has long displayed as a player.
Prieto's compositions are elaborate composites melding Afro-Cuban rhythms and modern jazz harmonies into music that is ecstatic and intelligent. The title track commences as a straight-ahead Latin jazz piece, full of Spanish-tinged fanfare and Jazz Messenger bravura that shows off the front line to great effect and goes into a drum feature that begins like a tipico timbales solo and moves into a samba section, with all the bells and whistles, on which the drummer sounds like a one-man carnival. On "Tumba Francesca" he utilizes an Afro-Haitian form popular in Cuba to create a new piece on which Lynch's steeped-in-folklore trumpet and Terry's Trane-influenced tenor are driven by his cowbell and woodblock augmented drum kit. A trio track, the foreboding "Ironico Arlequin," reveals Prieto's ability to convey a variety of emotions in even the simplest settings.
The rhythm section opens "Danzon Santa Clara" with an upbeat introduction before soprano and flugelhorn state the charming traditional melody, which moves through a variety of tempos, culminating in Prieto's energetic soloing over a Perdomo montuno and riffing horns. The episodic "On and On" begins boppishly and traverses diversely emotional musical territory in a clever portrayal of a relentless conversationalist. "Trio Absolute" features Perdomo's Fender Rhodes on an exploration of changing claves.
Violinist Ilmar Gavilan replaces Lynch on "Mechanical Movement," a contrapuntal polyphonic Threadgill influenced award-winning composition written by Prieto for a modern dance performance. "Interrupted Question" is another multifaceted song relating a life experience. The date ends with "Conga En Ti," a solo performance on which the leader's voice and keyboards supplement his percussion. The track reveals the influence of Hermeto Pascoal and forecasts Prieto's development as one of the most important new composers in jazz today.
Track Listing: 1. About the Monks;
2. Tumba Francesca;
3. Ironico Arlequin;
4. Danzon Santa Clara;
5. On and On;
6. Listen Now! Trio Absolute;
7. Mechanical Movement;
8. Interrupted Question;
9. Listen Now! Conga en Ti.
Personnel: Dafnis Prieto: Percussion, Drums, Keyboards, Vocals, Melodica; Brian Lynch: Trumpet, Flugelhorn;
Yosvany Terry: Alto, Soprano, Tenor Sax; Chekere Luis Perdomo: Piano, Fender Rhodes; Hans
Glawischnig: Bass; Ilmar Gavilan: Violin.