Back to the Sunset (Dafnison Music)
Dafnis Prieto Big Band
Released April 6, 2018
Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album 2019
Inspired to make his biggest statement yet, Cuban-born drummer, composer, bandleader, and 2011 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Dafnis Prieto is thrilled to release the Dafnis Prieto Big Band’s (DPBB) debut album, Back to the Sunset, on Friday, April 6, 2018 on Prieto’s independent music label, Dafnison Music, celebrating ten years as a record label in April 2018. On this project Prieto is collaborating with GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning producer Eric Oberstein, heralded for his work producing large ensemble recordings.
The DPBB made its world premiere over three exhilarating nights, August 25-27, 2017, at New York’s Jazz Standard. Immediately following the premiere, the DPBB recorded in Brooklyn, joined by special guests Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, and Brian Lynch.
One of the leading musical voices of his generation, Prieto composed and arranged nine works for the album, showcasing his talents as a trailblazing composer 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). Back to the Sunset 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.
Prieto writes, “The undercurrent of this album is to pay tribute to some significant mentors/musicians that have influenced and inspired me one way or another, directly or indirectly. This is a journey in time, looking back and remembering the way up to now, with gratitude and joy. Back to the Sunset is a state of mind, a place for contemplation and love.”
“It’s been a joy to collaborate with Dafnis Prieto on this ambitious project,” writes Oberstein. “This new ensemble is a powerful vehicle for Dafnis’ expansive ideas as a composer. In this record, you’ll hear his native Cuba and the influences he’s absorbed since immigrating to the United States 18 years ago, but also a collection of works that are distinctly his own, with a full palette of sounds and colors on display.”
Since arriving in the U.S. from Cuba in 1999, Prieto has been fearless in his vision, playing and writing across styles, always with a forward-looking instinct. He is known for his inventive, sensitive drumming and propulsive rhythm.
His compositions mix lush and jubilant melodies with polyrhythm, displaying a range of musical vocabularies from Latin jazz to classical chamber music. In over two decades as a professional musician, Prieto has composed for numerous configurations, including big band, amassing a catalog of more than 50 original works.
Prieto is committed to maintaining a bold vision for his music. 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 DPBB strives to make an impact as a leading Latin jazz big band recording and performing for years to come, and to provide a platform for Prieto to write for big band, a format he fell in love with as a child.
1. Una Vez Más (Dafnis Prieto / Brian Lynch) Featuring: Brian Lynch (trumpet) Dedicated to Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri & Brian Lynch 7:28
2. The Sooner the Better (Dafnis Prieto) Dedicated to Egberto Gismonti & Jerry González 9:04
3. Out of the Bone (Dafnis Prieto) Dedicated to Steve Coleman & Michel Camilo 9:34
4. Back to the Sunset (Henry Threadgill / Dafnis Prieto) Featuring: Henry Threadgill (alto sax) Dedicated to Henry Threadgill & Andrew Hill 7:29
5. Danzonish Potpourri (Dafnis Prieto) Dedicated to Bebo Valdés, Art Blakey & Jane Bunnett 10:11
6. Song for Chico (Steve Coleman / Dafnis Prieto) Featuring: Steve Coleman (alto sax) Dedicated to Chico O’Farrill, Arturo O’Farrill & Mario Bauzá 7:28
7. Prelude Para Rosa (Dafnis Prieto) Dedicated to Bobby Carcassés & Dave Samuels 8:04
8. Two For One (Dafnis Prieto) Dedicated to Buddy Rich, Chucho Valdés & Hermeto Pascoal 9:16
9. The Triumphant Journey (Dafnis Prieto) Dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo 6:50
Dafnis Prieto Big Band
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 (1)
Henry Threadgill: alto sax (4)
Steve Coleman: alto sax (6)
Recorded August 28-29, 2017, at Systems Two Recording Studios, Brooklyn, NY
Produced by Dafnis Prieto & Eric Oberstein
Executive Producers: Lindsay Evans, Harsha Murthy
Recording & Mixing Engineer: Joe Marciano
Mastering Engineer: Max Ross
Assistant Engineers: Max Ross & Andrew Cavaciuti
Mixing: Joe Marciano, Max Ross, Dafnis Prieto & Eric Oberstein
The astonishingly talented and prolific drummer Dafnis Prieto has done a lot since moving to the States from his native Cuba in 1999. He’s made a host of sideman appearances with musicians of widely varying stripes, including Peter Apfelbaum, Michel Camilo, Steve Coleman, Marilyn Lerner, Brian Lynch, Henry Threadgill, Chucho Valdes, and John Zorn. He won a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2011. He published an influential instructional guide, A World of Rhythmic Possibilities, in 2016. And he’s recorded a significant number of his own dates, with small groups ranging from trios to sextets, all of which highlight Prieto’s distinctive approach to using the Afro-Cuban musical tradition as a springboard for all manner of stylistic and rhythmic innovation.
The one project he hadn’t yet attempted? A big-band album. But with Back to the Sunset, that’s now been fixed. And the results are as invigorating, imaginative, and rhythmically exhilarating as one would expect from such a fearless and restlessly creative musician.
Prieto has assembled a large ensemble of extraordinary talent, with a number of musicians he’s partnered with previously. The aforementioned Apfelbaum is here, along with folks like pianist Manuel Valera and trumpeter Mike Rodriguez. But also included are guest appearances from Lynch, Threadgill, and Coleman, as Prieto clearly sees this record as an opportunity to recognize his debt to musicians who have influenced and mentored him over the years. Along the same lines, each of the album’s nine pieces is dedicated to assorted jazz luminaries, ranging from Art Blakey to Jerry Gonzalez to Andrew Hill, giving further evidence of the sheer breadth of Prieto’s omnivorous musical tendencies. he music is characterized by an irrepressible energy, as each piece is chock full of rhythmic detours that maximize the talents of the band. Stasis is Prieto’s sworn enemy, as very rarely do these tunes stay locked on to a particular rhythmic figure or theme for very long; there’s always another segue just ahead, so that the tunes easily hold interest despite their length (8-9 minutes each, on average). At times Prieto’s got so many ideas bursting forth that they just about get the better of him: pieces like “Song for Chico” or “Two for One,” a couple of the surging up-tempo tracks, bring so many transitions that it becomes a challenging task at times just to follow their logic. But this kind of exploratory spirit has always characterized Prieto’s work—and it’s hard to fault him for this, given that the rhythmic energy the band sustains is always so infectious. There are a lot of overlapping and polyrhythmic grooves happening here, but they do always groove. Much like Steve Coleman’s work, the music somehow manages to be heady, complex and supremely catchy at the same time.
There are a lot of standout moments on the disc, but here are a few of the most noteworthy ones. “Una Vez Más” and “Out of the Bone” showcase Prieto’s Afro-Cuban roots most effectively, with the compositions making full use of the ensemble to create vigorous, danceable lines that are filled with movement and surprise. Just as effective are the poignant “The Sooner the Better” and the uplifting “Triumphant Journey,” both of which utilize the kind of voicings and lyricism one might hear on a Maria Schneider record—but of course with Prieto’s unmistakable Latin undercurrent always propelling the music forward. Terrific solo moments are abundant as well, with too many to do justice here to their consistent caliber of musicianship. Multi-instrumentalist Michael Thomas is a particular revelation, as he provides superb, well-crafted solos on alto sax, soprano sax and piccolo on three separate tracks.
But the most special moment belongs to one of Prieto’s mentors: Henry Threadgill. To hear the barely-restrained power in his emotionally-charged solo on the somber, affecting ballad “Back to the Sunset” is to be struck once again by the cross-stylistic pollination that has consistently shaped Prieto’s development as an artist. This album bears witness to that career-long, multifaceted creative process—and it does so in a vivid and deeply enjoyable way.
Troy Dostert (All About Jazz)