There is a segment in the short, documentary film “Regresar – Back in Cuba” (2019) where Dafnis Prieto says to a contingent of students, “When I create music, I don’t think in genres. I accept the quality of the genre, but what interests me the most is making the music I hear and feel.”
True to form, Prieto’s soon-to-be-released Cantar (Dafnison Music) reveals a side of the award-winning drummer, composer, arranger, and bandleader listeners are not familiar with. Dafnis Prieto, the lyricist!
Despite his busy schedule, Dafnis took the time to give Latin Jazz Network the scoop on the making of Cantar. As always, the conversation was enlightening and pleasantly surprising.
For more on Dafnis Prieto and Luciana Souza be sure to read their biographies below.
Tomás Peña: As you stated in the film “Regresar – Back in Cuba“, you have built your career following your muse and avoiding genres. Still, to some listeners, Cantar will come as a surprise. What inspired you to create an album with vocals, songs, and lyrics in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese)?
Dafnis Prieto: That’s what I’ve always done! Recently, it occurred to me that I composed “Sueño De Amor” fifteen years ago. Most people don’t know I started out as a guitarist. Also, I’ve been collecting songs and thinking about creating an album with vocals and lyrics since I was a kid. So, I spoke to my producer, Eric Oberstein, and we agreed that it was time to shine a light on the side of me that most people don’t know.
TP: Before we go further, I should mention the single “Houve de Tempo”, “The Muse” and “Guajira En Sol” are available on all digital platforms. On another note, Cantar features the Brazilian singer and songwriter Luciana Souza, who Billboard described as “a uniquely talented vocalist who organically crosses genre borders.” How did you and Luciana meet, and why did you choose her as your collaborator?
DP: I met Luciana briefly when we lived in New York. I’ve always admired her voice, range, improvisation, wordless vocals, ability to sing in multiple languages, and the fact that she is a musician. Someone I can speak to on musical terms and different levels. Also, Luciana dared to take on the project and engage. All of the compositions are original and have a different character and vibe. It’s a lot! Luciana was the perfect fit for this album.
TP: You composed the material and you and Luciana collaborated on the songs, “Houve un Tempo” and “The Muse.” Also, tell me about the supporting cast: Peter Apfelbaum (Woodwinds, Melodica, Percussion, Keys), Martin Bejerano (Piano) and Matt Brewer (Acoustic and Electric Bass).
DP: Peter Apfelbaum and I have been working together, on and off, for about twenty-five years. Martin Bejerano and I teach at the same university. I enjoy his playing. Also, he’s an experienced accompanist. Matt Brewer is the perfect candidate for this record. It’s the first time he and I have worked together. And, of course, Luciana. It’s the first time she and I have worked together as well.
TP: Let’s go through the tracks. Share whatever thoughts come to mind.
- GUAJIRA EN SOL – Means “Country Girl in the Sun.” A country girl that sings like a mockingbird and lives on a mountain. She is quiet and composed and brings happiness to hearts.
- WHEN I MISS YOU – Is a very intimate and dramatic song. It talks about missing someone, or knowing when the person leaves you will miss them. Also, it’s a very interesting mixture of elements: Cuban Danzón, English lyrics and Middle Eastern rhythms.
- HOUVE UN TEMPO – A cheerful song with a Brazilian vibe that captures the spirit of the collaboration. I composed the melody a long time ago. I asked Luciana to compose the lyrics and she did a masterful job.
- SUEÑO DE AMOR – A love song. He, or she is revealing they are in love but, at the same time, they are not asking or expecting anything in return.
- TO THE CONCERT – Is a wordless instrumental. Also, it’s a remake of a song I composed for the Absolute Quintet called “The Stutterer.” I composed lyrics but we decided not to use them.
- BRISA – A conversation between a woman and the breeze. She is saying to the breeze, “Look at me, touch me, kiss me. It is you that caresses me. It is me that gets illuminated.” It’s in 3/4, it’s a waltz, sort of.
- AMANHECER CONTIGO – A classic bolero (ballad) sung in Portuguese. The song originally appeared on the album, Transparency (2020).
- UNKNOWN MAN – A short instrumental tune dedicated to people who didn’t make it into the history books. It’s a very progressive tune. Also, it features a lot of interaction between the drum and the bass.
- THE MUSE – Is about the muse that inspires us. “When she arrives you set aside your thoughts. You receive her message, a revelation that she wants to share, just like an open letter.”
- GUAJIRA EN LU – “Lu” is short for Luciana. When I presented the composition to her she liked it and suggested we do an instrumental version, and we did!
TP: Conceptually, did you set out to create songs and lyrics that appealed to a broader (international) audience?
DP: Yes, that was my intention.
TP: The official release date is September 16, 2022. Is there a CD release party in the works and, or upcoming performances scheduled?
DP: We are working on scheduling performances in the coming months.
TP: Final thoughts?
DP: Cantar contains such a wide variety of songs and stories, presented in so many ways. There is something for everyone. I hope listeners enjoy it!
TP: Listeners are in for a treat. Congrats!
ABOUT DAFNIS PRIETO
From Cuba, Dafnis Prieto’s revolutionary drumming techniques and compositions have had a powerful impact on the Latin and Jazz music scene, nationally and internationally.
Various awards include a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship Award; a GRAMMY Award and a Latin GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Dafnis Prieto Big Band Back to the Sunset in 2018; a GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Dafnis Prieto Sextet Transparency in 2021; a GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Absolute Quintet, and a Latin GRAMMY nomination for “Best New Artist,” in 2007; and “Up & Coming Musician of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2006. Also a gifted educator, Prieto has conducted numerous master classes, clinics, and workshops throughout the world. He was a faculty member of Jazz Studies at NYU from 2005 to 2014, and in 2015 became a faculty member of Frost School of Music at UM (University of Miami).
As a composer, Prieto has created music for dance, film, chamber ensembles, and most notably for his own bands ranging from duets to big bands, including the distinctively different groups featured by nine acclaimed recordings as a leader: About The Monks, Absolute Quintet, Taking The Soul For a Walk, Si o Si Quartet-Live at Jazz Standard, Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio, Triangles and Circles, Back to the Sunset, Transparency, and Cantar. In 2022 Prieto premiered a new work for Latin band and string orchestra — Tentación — performed by People of Earth with the Louisville Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, and the Britt Festival Orchestra. He has received new works commissions, grants, and fellowships from Chamber Music America; Princeton University; Jazz at Lincoln Center; East Carolina University; Meet the Composer; the Louisville Orchestra, the Britt Festival Orchestra, New Music USA, Hazard Productions, and People of Earth; and the Metropole Orkest.
Prieto has performed at many national and international music festivals as a bandleader presenting his own projects and music. Since his arrival to New York in 1999, Prieto has also worked in bands led by Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdés, Bebo Valdés, Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, Dave Samuels & The Caribbean Jazz Project, Jane Bunnett, D.D. Jackson, Edward Simon, Roy Hargrove, Don Byron, and Andrew Hill, among others.
In 2016 Prieto published the groundbreaking analytical and instructional drum book, A World of Rhythmic Possibilities. In 2020 he published Rhythmic Synchronicity, a book for non-drummers inspired by a course of the same name that Prieto developed at the Frost School of Music.
Prieto is the founder of the independent music company Dafnison Music. He endorses: Yamaha Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Latin Percussion, Evans Drumheads, and Vic Firth Sticks.
ABOUT LUCIANA SOUZA
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Ms. Souza grew up in a family of Bossa Nova innovators – her father, a singer and songwriter, her mother, a poet and lyricist. Ms. Souza’s work as a performer transcends traditional boundaries around musical styles, offering solid roots in jazz, sophisticated lineage in world music, and an enlightened approach to new music.
As a leader, Luciana Souza has been releasing acclaimed recordings since 2002 – including her six Grammy-nominated records Brazilian Duos, North and South, Duos II, Tide, Duos III, and The Book of Chet. Her debut recording for Universal, The New Bossa Nova, was produced by her husband, Larry Klein, and was met with widespread critical acclaim. Luciana’s recordings also include two works based on poetry – The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop And Other Songs, and Neruda. Of her 2015 release, Speaking in Tongues, The New York Times said: “Luciana Souza has used her voice as an instrument of empathy and intimacy, cultural linkage and poetic disquisition… singing wordlessly but with full expressive intent.” Her critically acclaimed recording, The Book of Longing, saw Ms. Souza immersed in the world of poetry again. Luciana set poems by Leonard Cohen, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Christina Rossetti to music. Her latest recording, Storytellers, is a collaboration with Grammy Award Winning composer and arranger Vince Mendoza and the Cologne-based WDR Big Band, and is a tribute to the great songwriters of Brazil, including Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Chico Pinheiro, Djavan, Guinga, and many others.
Ms. Souza has performed and recorded with musical luminaries including Herbie Hancock (on his Grammy winning record, River – The Joni Letters), Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bobby McFerrin, Maria Schneider, Danilo Pérez, and many others. Her longstanding duo work with Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo has earned her accolades across the globe, and her complete discography contains more than sixty records as a side singer. Luciana Souza’s singing has been called “transcendental, “perfect, ” and of “unparalleled beauty.” Entertainment Weekly writes, “Her voice traces a landscape of emotion that knows no boundaries.” Of her work with the chamber music ensemble, A Far Cry, the Boston Globe said: “Her performance was more than beautiful. It was consolatory, and true to the work’s air of ultimate things.”
Luciana Souza has been a prominent soloist in two important works by composer Osvaldo Golijov – La Pasion According to St. Mark, and Oceana. She has performed with the Bach Akademie Stuttgart, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Other orchestral appearances include performances with the New York Philharmonic, the Atlanta Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra. Her work in chamber music includes a fruitful collaboration with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, composers Derek Bermel, Patrick Zimmerli, and the five composers of The Blue Hour – Rachel Grimes, Angelica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snyder – a setting of a poem by Carolyn Forché.
Ms. Souza began her recording career at age three with a radio commercial, and recorded more than 200 jingles and soundtracks, becoming a first-call studio veteran at age sixteen. She spent four years on faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she received a Bachelor’s in Jazz Composition. Ms. Souza earned a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from New England Conservatory of Music and taught for four years at Manhattan School of Music, in New York City. Ms. Souza continues to teach Master Classes all over the world. In the last years she has taught at M.I.T., Berklee College of Music, UCLA, York University in Canada and The Musik Akademie in Basel, Switzerland.
From 2005 to 2010, Luciana was the Jazz Artist in Residence with the prestigious San Francisco Performances. In 2005 and 2013 Luciana was awarded Best Female Jazz Singer by the Jazz Journalists Association. Billboard magazine has said of Luciana: “she continues her captivating journey as a uniquely talented vocalist who organically crosses genre borders. Her music soulfully reflects, wistfully regrets, romantically woos, joyfully celebrates…”
- Guajira en Sol (feat. Luciana Souza)
- When I Miss You (feat. Luciana Souza)
- Houve un Tempo (feat. Luciana Souza)
- Sueño de Amor (feat. Luciana Souza)
- To the Concert (feat. Luciana Souza)
- Brisa (feat. Luciana Souza)
- Amanhecer Contigo (feat. Luciana Souza)
- Unknown Man
- The Muse (feat. Luciana Souza)
- Guajira En Lu
- Music & Lyrics by Dafnis Prieto, except as follows: The Muse: Music by Dafnis Prieto, Lyrics by Luciana Souza & Dafnis Prieto, Houve Um Tempo: Music by Dafnis Prieto, Lyrics by Luciana Souza, Amanhecer Contigo: Translation to Portuguese by Luciana Souza.
- Produced by Larry Klein & Eric Oberstein
- Executive Producers: Harsha Murthy, Lindsay Evans & Joe Morone, Rebecca Henderson & Jim Morone
- Associate Producer: Joe Morra
- Recorded by Andy Taub on September 2-4, 2021, at Brooklyn Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY
- Mixing Engineer: Mike Marciano, Systems Two Recording Studio, Long Island, NY
- Mixing: Mike Marciano, Dafnis Prieto, Larry Klein, Eric Oberstein
- Mastering Engineer: Bernie Grundman, Bernie Grundman Mastering
- Publicity: Chris DiGirolamo/Two for the Show Media