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Dafnis Prieto: Taking the Soul for a Walk

Martin Longley By

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Cuban drummer/percussionist Dafnis Prieto has been living in New York since 1999, making a significant mark on both the Latin and jazz scenes. Sometimes both spheres are tackled at the same time, as when Prieto appeared with Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch's quintet at Iridium in April, 2008. In his own work, such stylistic divisions are even harder to disentangle, but why would the listener need to perform such a task anyway?

Prieto has evolved a highly individual composing character at an early age, his latest disc comprising twelve original pieces, all of them very direct in their five- or six-minute punchiness. He displays a penchant for cerebral Latinisms that marry uncompromising rhythmic complexity to an optimistic partying sensation. Prieto pens very close parts for his horn trio of Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Peter Apfelbaum and Yosvany Terry (saxophones), which work almost apart from his own constantly active drum clatters. It's as if Prieto is adopting the role of a timbales player, but translating these rotary flurries to the full drum kit. His dense fills are consistently exciting, almost suspended in space and always prodding and pushing behind the fanfare-like horn themes, themselves stabbing and parrying. This relationship of complementary motions is working across the backbone patterns of keyboardist Manuel Valera and bass man Yunior Terry, providing a more linear thrill.

The pieces are Latin yet not quite Latin and if anything, there's less of the expected Cuban influence and more of a Mexican street parade feel, a soundtrack to a sombreros'n'shooters flick. It's sometimes reminiscent of an adrenalized Liberation Music Orchestra, as Cohen delivers several soaring, brittle trumpet solos. Apfelbaum's mad melodica drives "Until The Last Minute" and "Prelude Para Rosa" is typical of Prieto's rousing, anthemic qualities, steeped in a kind of melancholic fortitude.

Track Listing: Taking the Soul for a Walk; The Sooner the Better; En las Ruinas de su Infancia; Until the Last Minute; Comandante; Just Say It; Tell Me About Her; Two Excuses; I Felt You Were Coming; Prelude para Rosa; You'll Never Say Yes; Emergency Call.

Personnel: Dafnis Prieto: drums; Peter Apfelbaum: C soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, melodica; Yosvany Terry: Bb soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Avishai Cohen: trumpet; Yunior Terry: acoustic bass; Manuel Valera: piano, Fender Rhodes; Itai Kriss: flute (10).

Title: Taking the Soul for a Walk | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Dafnison Music

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