Friday, September 26, 2008

Dafnis Prieto at Duke Saturday (9/27)

Dafnis Prieto

Cuban drummer and composer Dafnis Prieto is only touching down in Durham for a day, this Saturday (9/27), but he has a full plate:

2:30 pm - Dafnis Prieto master class at Duke. He will discuss his ideas about music in general and demonstrate some specific drumset techniques. Free, the public is invited. Baldwin Auditorium, Duke East Campus.

8:00 pm - Dafnis Prieto Sextet performs at Duke Performances. Reynolds Theater, Bryan Center, Duke West Campus. See our events calendar for ticket info.

Sextet personnel for Saturday's concert:

Dafnis Prieto, drums
Peter Apfelbaum, sax & melodica
Felipe Lamoglia, sax
Avishai Cohen, trumpet
Yunior Terry, bass
Manuel Valera, piano & keyboard

The touring band reflects one line-up change from the new album, Taking the soul for a walk; Lamoglia replaces Yosvany Terry.

While known for his unique, even emotive approach to the drumset, Dafnis Prieto composes at the piano. He has two sparkling albums of chamber jazz on the Zoho label, 2005's About the Monks and 2006's Absolute Quintet.

Taking the soul for a walk appears on his own label, Dafnison, and includes tributes to late musicians: a danzon dedicated to conguero Miguel Angá Diaz, and a fanfare inspired by saxophonist Mario Rivera. Other tunes are dedicated to people and places he left behind in Cuba when he emigrated in 1999. These include his mother, Rosa, and childhood friends from the poor neighborhood where he was born, in Santa Clara.

After 8 years of study at Havana's Escuela Nacional, his orientation to the drumset is as much classical as it is carnaval. "I love the timpani," he says. Yet one metal instrument on his drumset resembles an upside-down frying pan, the kind of thing you'd expect to see clanging in a comparsa street orchestra. In fact, on About the Monks, Prieto recreated a one-man comparsa by layering his own vocal and percussion tracks.

Like all creators, he thinks coming up with labels is "a waste of energy"--but when pushed to describe his music, he calls it "contemporary Latin jazz." Minus congas on this most recent outing, and making use of variable meters and counterpoint, his sound does not resemble mambo, or traditional, dance-based Latin jazz. Still, like any good Cuban, his "favorite band" is still Los Van Van. He even describes one tune on Taking the soul for a walk as a "songo," the Caribbean song form first elaborated by Los Van Van guru Juan Formell.

Want to hear more?

Tune in to my radio interview with Dafnis Prieto from 1:00-3:00 pm Saturday on WXDU 88.7 FM, or listen online with iTunes at

Find out more at the artist's website, and order tickets for the Dafnis Prieto Sextet concert Saturday night at Duke Performances or Duke Box Office.

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