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Interviews

Dafnis Prieto: Experiments in Spontaneity

By Published: October 16, 2012
His name got around quickly because of his startling talent. He did work with Coleman, Camilo, Threadgill and Palmieri, as well as Chico O'Farrill
Chico O'Farrill
Chico O'Farrill
1921 - 2001
composer/conductor
and Arturo O'Farrill, Dave Samuels
Dave Samuels
Dave Samuels
b.1948
vibraphone
and The Caribbean Jazz Project, Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
b.1941
piano
, Bobby Carcasses
Bobby Carcasses
Bobby Carcasses
b.1938
multi-instrumentalist
, Claudia Acuna
Claudia Acuna
Claudia Acuna

vocalist
, Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
b.1969
trumpet
, Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron
b.1958
clarinet
, Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
1937 - 2007
piano
and others.



"The interesting part," he says of working with such a vast array of artists, "is they all have their own distinctive way of how to conceive music. I was willing to experiment within their way of doing music. So it was a wide range of possibilities, from Eddie Palmieri to Henry Threadgill and Steve Coleman."

He also had the opportunity to start checking out American drummers, many of whom he was already listening to in Cuba, "like Jeff "Tain" Watts
Jeff
Jeff "Tain" Watts
b.1960
drums
. In Cuba, I knew some of the work of Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
and Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
, who are some of my favorite drummers. Also Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
and Billy Higgins
Billy Higgins
Billy Higgins
1936 - 2001
drums
. Here, in New York, there are great drummers, but I felt somehow related to the playing of 'Tain.' He was one of the people that supported me, my playing and what I was doing. So for me it was great happiness, in a way, to be heard by somebody that you admire and he supports what you're doing. That's a great thing. After that, I've met great drummers who have also been an inspiration for me, like Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
b.1960
drums
and Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
. Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
."

Starting with >About the Monks (ZOHO Music) in 2005, Prieto has five recordings under his own name, including the new trio disk. In between all his performing work, Prieto is constantly inspired to compose. He's received commissions from groups like Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center and East Carolina University.

"I wanted to be able to swim in my own water. That's one of the basic inspirations that gives me the impulse to start creating my own music, because I want to be able to express myself, not only through drumming, but through my compositions."

He is also involved in education, teaching master classes throughout the world. For six years, he has taught at New York University. In 2011, he was named a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and so receives a stipend over a five-year period that eases the financial burden and allows him to concentrate his art. "It saves a lot of aggravation," he says. "It helps a lot for me to concentrate on what I want to do in my career. It has given me that support. And the attention from other people who didn't know me before that.

He is well-known in the jazz community, but says "I still think I can and should be doing more in terms of performance and the possibility of playing in different places. There are a lot of places I haven't played yet. I think eventually it will happen." In doing so, his desire is to concentrate on his own projects and his own music. He still does some sideman work, which has currently been whittled down pretty much to the Eddie Palmieri band.

Additionally, he runs Dafnison Music and will be recording things besides his own projects. And he will be putting out a book on drumming that he has been developing for a while. As for Proverb Trio, the drummer is continuing to try and get work for the group. There will be U.S. west coast gigs in November, 2012 and he hopes the schedule will grow.

"I'm really happy with the way the music came out and the concept of the band. I'm looking forward to keep developing that music and that idea of spontaneous composition and collective improvisation," says Prieto. "The main idea is to do something spontaneous that may sound preconceived. Instead of preconceiving something that may sound spontaneous, we're doing it the other way around. The idea is to do it in a way where we develop things from our influences and who we are now, in the present moment. It's all about the now."

Selected Discography

Dafnis Prieto, Proverb Trio (Dafnison, 2012)

Dafnis Prieto, Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet: Live At Jazz Standard NYC (Dafnison, 2009)

Dafnis Prieto Sextet, Taking the Soul for a Walk (Dafnison, 2008)

Michel Camilo, Spirit of the Moment (Telarc, 2007)

The Caribbean Jazz Project, Mosaic (Concord Picante, 2006)

Dafnis Prieto, Absolute Quintet (ZOHO, 2006)

Bryan Lynch, Sphere of Influence (EWE, 2006)

Arturo O'Farrill Trio, Live in Brooklyn (ZOHO, 2005)

Dafnis Prieto, About the Monks (ZOHO, 2005)

Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Lucidarium (Label Bleu, 2004)

Eddie Palmieri, La Perfect II (Concord, 2002)

Arturo O'Farrill Trio, Cumana (M&I, 2002)

Henry Threadgill, Everbody's Mouth's a Book (Pi, 2001)

Jane Bunnett, Ritmo + Soul (Blue Note, 2000)

Photo Credit

All Photos: Courtesy of Dafnis Prieto


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