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Victor Prieto: Persistencia

Tom Greenland By

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Originally from Orense, Spain, accordionist Victor Prieto brings old-world charm and a new-fangled approach to jazz. Prieto's debut CD release, Persistencia, featuring Carlo DeRosa on acoustic bass and Allison Miller on trap drums, showcases the leader's unique approach to harmony, melody, and tone, effectively translating the accordionist's unique jazz sensibility via an unusual instrumental vehicle.

The accordion's distinctive timbre often conjures up associations with Polish polka, German folk lieder, Viennese waltzes, French musette & cabaret chansons, North American Tex-Mex, Louisiana Cajun & Zydeco, Argentinian tango, and Mexican conjunto/tejano/norteño—but jazz? This isn't accordion accordin' to Hoyle!

One of the inherent problems in utilizing the accordion for harmonically complex music such as jazz lies in the fact that the left-hand chord buttons are preset, strictly limiting choices for chord construction as well as comping techniques. Prieto has straddled this limitation via custom adjustments to his instrument—don't ask, it's top secret—and by adding voices to his left hand chords by layering in notes with the right hand, resulting a harmonic textures unprecedented on this ax.

Persistencia features six original tunes by Prieto, along with covers of Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti's "Frevo, Argentinian tango-maestro Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango, and John Coltrane's "26-2, the latter a three-in-one key workout from the Giant Steps album. Prieto's own compositions range from lyrical to neo-boppish to progressive. "Muiñeira da Carmen, "Persistencia, and "Only for You are wistful and romantic; "Freva, "Contrasts in NY, and "Mugares have angular lines and unusual harmonies; while "Mundos Celtas sounds like an Irish reel or jig, interspersed with sections of drawn-out, atmospheric chords.

The members of the trio work well together. Allison Miller's brushwork on "Muñeira da Carmen, her rolling tango-esque fills and feathered high-hat on the outro vamp of "Libertango, and her conversational counterpoint on "Persistencia are adroit and apropos. Bassist Carlo DeRosa is also excellent, particularly during his strolling intro on "Persistencia, his interactive commentary during Prieto's solo on "Mundos Celtas, his bowed vocalisms on "Libertango, and his driving solo over the samba groove of "Contrasts in NY.

Prieto's playing is stellar: virtuosic without seeming to be in a hurry, his melodic phrases materialize nonchalantly, commanding but never imposing, gaining momentum and urgency when inspiration strikes. The accordionist's linear vocabulary is unusual, at times hard-bopping, yet never quite resolving as "expected." His tone displays a horn-like quality—"breathing," swelling, and fading with the motion of the bellows—while his harmonic accompaniment often detours adventurously in parallel and symmetric motions that flirt with quasi-tonality.

Following closely on the heels of artists like Poland's The Motion Trio, Victor Prieto is teaching the old cats new tricks: compositions, improvised lines, tonal manipulations, and—above all—a novel way of chordin' the accordion.

Track Listing: Frevo; Muineira da Carmen; Contrasts in NY; Libertango; Persistencia; Mundos Celtas; 26-2; Only For You; Mugares.

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

Title: Persistencia | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Foxhaven Records


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