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Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset

Jack Bowers By

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The alliance of Latin music and American jazz ripened on these shores more than seventy years ago, nourished by pioneers such as Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Tito Puente and others. It has been carried forward and enhanced since then by a succession of remarkable innovators including in recent years the Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto who has chosen on his seventh recording as leader to honor a number of his forebears and musical heroes in a big-band format.

To help assure its success, Prieto assembled a blue-ribbon corps of New York-based musicians to dispatch nine of his tasteful compositions and arrangements. As one would expect, rhythm has the upper hand throughout, amplified by Prieto and ace percussionist Roberto Quintero . Prieto also makes good use of a trio of esteemed guest artists: altos Henry Threadgill (adapting better than one might envision on "Back to the Sunset"), Steve Coleman (the earnest "Song for Chico") and trumpeter Brian Lynch ("Uno Vez Mas," whose opening passage calls to mind Gillespie's "Manteca"). As everyone in the ensemble is a well-endowed soloist in his own right, there are no letdowns in that quarter.

Neither are there any concerns about Prieto's compositions, which are bright, rhythmic and melodious in the best Afro-Cuban jazz tradition. There are dedications to Gillespie and Pozo ("The Triumphant Journey"), Bauza and the O'Farrills, Chico and Arturo ("Song for Chico"), as well as to Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Egberto Gismonti, Jerry Gonzalez, Michel Camilo, Chucho and Bebo Valdes, Art Blakey, Jane Bunnett, Bobby Carcasses, Dave Samuels and even Buddy Rich ("Two for One," on which Prieto takes his only extended solo). Lynch solos with Quintero, Prieto and pianist Manuel Valera on "Una Vez Mas," Threadgill on "Sunset," Coleman with Quintero, Prieto and trumpeter Nathan Eklund on "Chico."

As noted, all of the soloists are splendid, with Peter Apfelbaum's melodica especially welcome on the colorful "Danzonish Potpourri" (Apfelbaum is heard to good advantage on tenor sax on "The Sooner the Better" and "Two for One"). Others whose eloquent voices are raised at various times include bassist Ricky Rodriguez, flugel Alex Sipiagin, alto Roman Filiu, baritone Chris Cheek, trumpeter John Deutsch, soprano (and piccolo) Michael Thomas, soprano / tenor Joel Frahm, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez and the trombone section (Tim Albright, Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik, bass Jeff Nelson) who are showcased with Cheek on "Out of the Bone."

As an homage to Latin / American jazz, this is exemplary. More than that, it is an album whose rhythmic intensity, harmonic discernment, intuitive brilliance and impressive group dynamic should enhearten jazz lovers of every persuasion. Well done, Dafnis.

Track Listing: Una Vez; The Sooner the Better; Out of the Bone; Back to the Sunset; Danzonish Potpourri; Song for Chico; Prelude Para Rosa; Two for One; The Triumphant Journey.

Personnel: Mike Rodríguez: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Nathan Eklund: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Alex Sipiagin: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Josh Deutsch: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Román Filiú: Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet; Michael Thomas: Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Piccolo; Peter Apfelbaum: Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Melodica; Joel Frahm: Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax; Chris Cheek: Bari Sax; Tim Albright: Trombone; Alan Ferber: Trombone; Jacob Garchik: Trombone; Jeff Nelson: Bass Trombone; Manuel Valera: Piano; Ricky Rodríguez: Acoustic & Electric Bass; Roberto Quintero: Congas, Bongos, Percussion; Dafnis Prieto: Drums & Music Director; Brian Lynch: Trumpet (Track 1); Henry Threadgill: Alto Sax (Track 4); Steve Coleman: Alto Sax (Track 6).

Title: Back to the Sunset | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Dafnison Music

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