Back to the Sunset
Cuban-born drummer, composer, bandleader, and 2011 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Dafnis Prieto leads the Dafnis Prieto Big Band’s (DPBB) for their debut album. This was recorded after the DPBB debuted for three nights at the Jazz Standard. Immediately after this engagement, the DPBB recorded in Brooklyn August 28-29, 2017, joined by special guests Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, and Brian Lynch. The 17-piece DPBB showcases some of the world’s best Latin jazz musicians, many of whom have previously played Prieto’s music in his other bands.
The ensemble features three horn sections (saxophones, trumpets, and trombones) and a rhythm section of piano, bass, congas, and Prieto on drums. The personnel are: Trumpet and Flugelhorn - Mike Rodríguez, Nathan Eklund, Alex Sipiagin, and Josh Deutsch; Reeds - 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, and Chris Cheek, Bari Sax; Trombones- Tim Albright, Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik, and Jeff Nelson; Manuel Valera, Piano; Ricky Rodríguez, Acoustic & Electric Bass; Roberto Quintero, Congas, Bongos, Percussion; and Prieto, Drums & Music Director
This is Prieto’s seventh recording as a leader, and is a deeply personal, handcrafted statement, as well as an acknowledgment of the musical figures that shaped his development. For it, he composed and arranged nine works, showcasing his compositional talents while honoring his musical heroes and mentors including Eddie Palmieri, Chico O'Farrill, Bebo Valdés, Jane Bunnett, and Michel Camilo (in addition to Threadgill, Coleman, and Lynch, among others). Prieto collaborated with GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning producer Eric Oberstein, heralded for his work producing large ensemble recordings, on this.
All the performances are dedicated to influences and masters. The disc opens with the volcanic Afro-Cuban "Una Vez Más" which is (dedicated to Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch), with Lynch contributing the searing trumpet. Cheek's' unaccompanied baritone sax opens "Out Of The Bone" (dedicated to Steve Coleman & Michel Camilo) which has unusual twists and voicing while Coleman is featured with his alto sax on "Song For Chico" (dedicated to Chico O’Farrill, Arturo O’Farrill & Mario Bauzá), with the musical fires smoldering behind him (pianist Valera is outstanding in driving the rhythm).
The variety of influences can be seen on "Back to the Sunset" (dedicated to Henry Threadgill and Andrew Hill), which features Threadgill's acerbic, angular alto sax set against Pietro's orchestration and a languid tempo. The lengthiest performance is, "Danzonish Potpourri" (dedicated to Bebo Valdés, Art Blakey & Jane Bunnett), with the Big band easily navigating tempo shifts. A spirited soprano sax solo set against the stormy orchestration stands out as does Apfelbaum's melodica that closes this out.The closing "The Triumphant Journey," (dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo), has a memorable melodic line along with a number of excellent solos.
The other performances are of a comparable level with this Big Band delivering first-rate performances of the varied and challenging compositions that are heard on this exceptional Latin Big Band recording.
I received a download to review from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 378). Here is the opening track, "Una Vez Más."