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Victor Prieto: Persistencia (2006)

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Victor Prieto: Persistencia How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Trios are sensitive things. They take a jump in the complexity from duos, yet can't be split into rhythm and lead instruments like quartets. To create a cohesive sound, all the members of the trio must be listening carefully to the overall balance. Each can essentially be a soloist at a different level. The trio that accordionist Victor Prieto leads on Persistencia is very finely tuned and highly responsive.

Prieto plays accordion the way Toots Thielmans plays harmonica or Dino Saluzzi plays bandoneon—he transcends the instrument and just plays music. The Italian feel of this recording comes more from the music than the instrumentation. Bassist Carlo DeRosa and drummer Allison Miller, both leaders in their own right, together comprise half of Agrazing Maze. DeRosa, who has an impressive technique, writes dark, muscular and propulsive music, but here he sounds as light as a feather. Miller, who is equally at home with constantly changing odd meters as a Dr. Lonnie Smith organ trio groove, provides an endless assortment of percussive effects, always keeping the trio floating forward.

The key features of Prieto's music are lyricism and drama. He writes fine, memorable melodies, then works with the band to create tracks with a very clear dramatic arch, sometimes more than one, engaging and carrying the listener forward. He tells stories and paints pictures with music.

Of the nine tracks, six are by Prieto, along with Egberto Gismonti's "Frevo," Argentinean tango composer/bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango," and a surprising "26-2" by John Coltrane. The core of the album is comprised of tracks four through six, which form the dramatic arch that is replicated within each tune.

"Libertango," the longest track at ten minutes, provides DeRosa a chance to show off his impeccable arco intonation. Prieto answers using varying phrase lengths of unpredictable form, building to a driving section that gets denser, supported by Miller's extroverted drumming. "Persistencia," the title tune, gradually develops from a solo bass intro into to a very pretty, achingly haunting melody by Prieto that has echoes of the wonderful Italian movie Il Postino. Completing the triptych is the light and quick "Mundos Celtas," with sections of tension and release where DeRosa and Miller follow Prieto's every twist and turn.

Put Persistencia on and turn the volume to club level. This music is meant to be enjoyed on many levels, but the musicianship is what makes it work—both individual and group playing is full of detail, sensitivity and finesse. Recommended.

Track Listing: Frevo; Muineira de Carmen; Contrasts in NY; Libertango; Persistencia; Mundos Celtas; 26-2; Only for you; Mungares.

Personnel: Victor Prieto: accordion; Carlo DeRosa: bass; Allison Miller: drums.

Record Label: Foxhaven Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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