“From Cuba, With Rhythm, Taking Jazz By Storm; Dafnis Prieto Makes His Mark in New York” – this is how the New York Times’ senior jazz critic Ben Ratliff headlined his January 17, 2002 artist feature on the then 27 year old drummer, percussionist and composer from Santa Clara, Cuba. Fast-forward to 2005 : here is About the Monks, Dafnis’ brilliant first CD recording as the leader of his fiery quintet from New York. Remarkably, all nine songs on the album are Dafnis’ compositions as well, all of them pushing the envelope in Latin Jazz assertively forward into the 21st century.
In 1999, Dafnis decided to settle in New York, where he was immediately asked to join the groups of avant-garde saxophonist Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, Jane Bunnett, and of trumpeter Brian Lynch, also featured on this recording. From 1999 onwards, Dafnis became first-call drummer in an ever-widening circle of important Latin Jazz groups, now including the ensembles of Eddie Palmieri, Papo Vazquez, Arturo O’Farrill, Chucho Valdes, Michel Camilo, the Caribbean Jazz Project, and many others.
“He is extraordinary,” comments Eddie Palmieri, the great salsa pianist / bandleader, “a rhythmic stimulus. He comprehends the two most incredibly difficult rhythmic genres -- being Cuban and being an extremely talented jazz drummer.”
At the same time, Dafnis developed his skills as a composer / arranger. About the Monks demonstrates his wide range and grasp of highly divergent material, from the more traditionally oriented Tumba Francesca to the cutting edge, jagged rhythmic explosions of Mechanical Movement. Here are Dafnis’ own descriptions of his music:
“About the Monks" is dedicated to the many people and artists who have inspired my soul. In may way of thinking, they are all “Monks”: they are dedicated, have discipline, and are giving persons with a lot of willpower and a mission in life.
"Tumba Francesa" is an arrangement based on the song "Nicanor Bouke", which is part of the Cuban folkloric culture coming from the Oriente region of Cuba. Originating from Africa, it came through Haiti and landed on the east side of Cuba. I used the original melody of this song to create a new tune.
"Ironico Arlequin" - I always thought that harlequins have a bit of an ironic and scary character. This is a trio tune with some “ironic” melodies and “scary” rhythms.
"Danzon Santa Clara" is dedicated to my mother. My home town Santa Clara is a beautiful city in the center of Cuba. I was born in Santa Clara, and heard many traditional danzones.
"On And On" has an intentionally “relentless” quality to it. It takes its inspiration from people we sometimes we meet who are relentless, sometimes not.
"Trio Absolute" is based on the Cuban Clave rhythm. The clave is a pattern that can be altered in its rhythmic structure. This is the only trio track on the album which employs a Fender Rhodes piano, and we are having fun coming at the clave rhythm from a different perspective and making it become something else.
"Mechanical Movement" was written for the 2003 Jazz Tete Montoliu composer competition in Spain. It is dedicated to my wife Judith who is a contemporary dancer.
"Interrupted Question" – Here I was thinking about the interruption of ideas, such as a question which is interrupted with an answer, or the other way around.
"Conga En Ti" - conga is the rhythm played at the carnivals in Cuba. You must feel it inside yourself in order to dance in the carnivals. They are the biggest parties taking place on the streets of Cuba. I used the essence of the conga rhythm for my own version of it.”
Photo by Sergio Royzen, Brooklyn, New York.
Since moving to New York in 1981, trumpeter Brian Lynch became one of the most sought-after sidemen with, among others, the Horace Silver Quintet, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and Eddie Palmieri. Performing and recording as a leader since 1986, Brian has established an impressive catalog of recordings on the criss Cross and Sharp Nine labels.
Yosvany Terry comes from a well-known musical family in Cuba : his father Eladio "Don Pancho", plays shekere and violin in the Charanga tradition with his group “Los Terry”. Yosvany, since coming to the US, has recorded with Roy Hargrove and Jane Bunnett as well as the acclaimed Cubanismo recording with Jesus Alemañy, Yosvany regularly works with Eddie Palmieri, Chucho Valdes, Steve Coleman, John Santos as well as with his own group Columna B.
Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, graduate of the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, is arguably the leading Latin Jazz pianist in New York of his generation. Luis has collaborated and performed with Ravi Coltrane, John Patitucci, Ray Barretto, Brian Lynch, David Sanchez, Claudia Acuña, the Caribbean Jazz Project, Dave Valentin, Jane Bunnett, John Benítez, Ralph Irizarry, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, and Alice Coltrane.
Acoustic bassist Hans Glawischnig, originally hailing from Austria, has within a very short time become the bassist of choice for several major young, and style-defining Latin Jazz ensembles in New York, and he has performed and recorded with Ray Baretto, David Sanchez, Miguel Zenon, Luis Perdomo, and many others.
Cuban violinist Ilmar Gavilan studied classical violin at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Russia, and at the Manhattan School of Music.
Dafnis Prieto plays Yamaha drums, Zildjian cymbals & sticks, and LP percussion. Brian Lynch plays Yamaha trumpets.
Produced by Dafnis Prieto. Recorded by Peter Karl at Peter Karl Studio, Brooklyn, NY. Mixed by George Walker at Walkerecordings. Mastered by Jeff Elliott at Reaction Studios. Photography: Sergio Royzen. Package Design: 3&Co., New York. Executive producer: Joachim Becker.
Dafnis Prieto is also featured as a sideman on two other ZOHO CD releases :
CARLOS BARBOSA-LIMA Siboney ZM 200414
ARTURO O’FARRILL Live in Brooklyn ZM 200506