DAFNIS PRIETO BIG BAND: AN OVERVIEW
Inspired to make his biggest statement yet, Cuban-born drummer, composer, and bandleader Dafnis Prieto is thrilled to embark on a new musical adventure with his new recording, his first big band album. Prieto has composed and arranged new works, showcasing his talents as a trailblazing composer while honoring his musical heroes, offering an artistic statement that will transcend time and culture.
Dafnis Prieto, a 2011 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, is committed to maintaining a bold vision for his work, this time expanding his melodic and rhythmically rich composition vocabulary into a larger format — the Dafnis Prieto Big Band (DPBB). Prieto is dedicated to this mission, and in love with the idea of making this project — a personal dream come true. For Prieto, this is a beautiful, unique, and must-do recording, with expenses that reflect the magnitude of this recording project. That is why he is now seeking your help to make this wonderful project a reality. This album will only be possible with your support and the support of people who share the same love and dream, and who can help make this unprecedented album happen.
“I’m immensely grateful for your consideration to help support this very special recording,” writes Prieto. “This album includes all new arrangements from a selected list of my compositions. It comprises a personal approach to music, which includes where I come from and where I’m going. As an artist I can’t help but bring my own view of sounds, textures, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. I share who I am, what I think, and what I feel in my music, with joy. This Big Band will be an exhilarating experience that invites the listener to a profound mix of cultures. The project will burst with imagination, will be fashionable but rhythmically intense — emotionally and spiritually — and will have roots in both my native Cuban culture and my second home for the last 18 years, the United States.”
Prieto presented the world premiere of the DPBB at the world-famous Jazz Standard in New York City August 25-27, 2017. The band recorded their debut album in New York City immediately following their three-night run at the Jazz Standard, to be released worldwide in Spring 2018.
Prieto sees his big band album as an opportunity to honor his heroes. The project features new recordings of his pieces “Song for Chico” and “The Triumphant Journey,” previously recorded by Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, paying tribute to Cuban composer Chico O’Farrill, as well as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and conguero Chano Pozo, respectively. Prieto also recorded “Una Vez Más,” dedicated to Eddie Palmieri and trumpet player Brian Lynch.
Other compositions include arrangements of Prieto’s “Two for One” (commissioned by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and premiered by his sextet at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival), “The Sooner the Better,” and “Prelude Para Rosa,” as well as new works Prieto wrote for the album.
Prieto’s big band features a full complement of top-shelf musicians, many of whom have previously played Prieto’s music in other bands and configurations. The 17-piece band features some of the world’s best Latin jazz musicians, with Prieto on drums.
For this project Prieto is teaming up with GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning producer Eric Oberstein, long known for his work producing big band projects with Arturo O’Farrill.
Since arriving in the U.S. from Cuba in 1999, Dafnis Prieto has been fearless in his vision, playing and writing across styles, always with a forward-looking eye. Prieto has composed for numerous configurations — trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, and big bands — amassing a catalog of more than 50 original works featured on more than 10 albums. His compositions, known for their grace and subtlety, mixing lush melodies with polyrhythm, range from classical chamber music to Latin jazz, the community in which he’s built his reputation as a trailblazing artist.
He earned the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship (the “Genius” grant) in 2011; his citation noted that his “rhythmically adventurous compositions combine a range of musical vocabularies” and that he “transposes elements from his Afro-Cuban musical heritage onto a jazz drum kit.”
Providing an additional perspective on Prieto’s music, Ben Ratliff of The New York Times wrote, “[Dafnis Prieto’s] style of composition explicitly puts the ensemble first. He writes pieces of music with great balance, in which one whirling ensemble section flows into the next, each containing a new melodic strain and just enough space for a soloist to make a mark over a vamp, then stop before indirection sets in. His sextet is full of fluid improvisers, but they’re tightly managed.”
Prieto is one of the leading drummers and composers of his generation, known for his inventive, sensitive playing and propulsive rhythm. His compositions, like his playing style, bristle with confidence, emotion, and energy, weaving musical narratives that are inviting and reflect the expansive musical influences that permeate his life.
No stranger to the big band format, Prieto recognizes the opportunity on this project to hear his previous compositions anew. He is also excited to write new works for jazz’s largest and most powerful vehicle — the jazz orchestra. Incorporating a trio of horn sections (saxophones, trumpets, and trombones), as well as a full rhythm section featuring piano, bass, percussion, and Prieto anchoring the band on drums, the 17-piece Dafnis Prieto Big Band will place a full palette of sounds and colors on display.
With this project Prieto continues the tradition of drummers leading big bands, including Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Mel Lewis, among others. Prieto has also had longstanding relationships with champions of the big band sound — the late Cuban pianist and composer Bebo Valdés (on whose 2005 GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning record, Bebo de Cuba, Prieto played drums); NEA Jazz Master, pianist, composer, and salsa pioneer Eddie Palmieri; and pianist, composer, and director of the GRAMMY-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO), Arturo O’Farrill.
Prieto previously composed two works for O’Farrill and the ALJO — “Song for Chico,” the Jazz at Lincoln Center-commissioned title track of the band’s 2008 album, which earned a GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Album; and “Triumphant Journey,” commissioned by O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Alliance as the opening track of the ALJO’s 2015 release, Cuba: The Conversation Continues.