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Dafnis Prieto is not an ordinary drummer and Absolute Quintet is not a typical Latin jazz recording. Prieto knows the Cuban clave rhythms and is aware of the music's heritage. Yes, he plays fiercely, with an array of tools from his kit. Sure, he's got the juice, with quickness, precision and inventiveness. But if you listen closely, there are many other elements brewing on this, his second release as a leader.
Like 2005's About The Monks, the new music has quirky rhythms and snaking patterns, matched with Prieto's ever-lively playing. But now he brushes his compositions with wider and more thoughtful strokes, making use of a dynamic new quintet featuring Jason Lindner (keyboards), Yosvany Terry (saxophones), Christian Howes (violin), Dana Leong (cello) and special guest artist Henry Threadgill (alto saxophone) on "Afrotango.
Prieto navigates his bass-less ensemble through a variety of waters. On "The Stutterer, the drums and strings hold down a pulsing groove through wicked patterns. On the poignant, soulful "Afrotango, Threadgill's earthy alto and Lindner's peculiar keyboards enhance a gypsy-like aura. Prieto's writing on "One Day Suite has sweeping overtones and vivid sections, each depicting the moods of morning, afternoon or nightall different but musically appealing.
Each instrument plays an integral role in the music. Howes and Leong are clearly versed in classical and free modes; the violin and cello not only provide ambience, but also individuality on "One Day Suite: Afternoon, with a chamber music sophistication. "New Elephant and "Renew Elephant bring touches of icy impressionism, yet Prieto and Terry's rapid solos add heat. "Innocent Bird ends this colorful menagerie of sounds, drawing from many influences and also incorporating tinges of gospel organ, blues, and soul. The result is definitely something out of the ordinary.
Track Listing: The Coolest; Sensaciones; The Stutterer; Afrotango; One Day Suite: Morning; One Day Suite:
Afternoon; One Day Suite: Night; New Elephant; Renew the Elephant; Innocent Bird.
Personnel: Dafnis Prieto: drums, vocals; Jason Lindner: Hammond organ, keyboards, vocals; Yosvany
Terry: saxophones; Christian Howes: violin; Dana Leong: cello; Henry Threadgill: alto
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.