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Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset

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Back to the Sunset - Dafnis Prieto Big Band

That Dafnis Prieto has undertaken an epic musical voyage is clear from the music on this disc. Back to the Sunset, is the culmination of a journey that looks back from the future. This colourful symphonic fantasy is the realisation of the dreams and aspirations of a drummer who may occupy a seat behind a trap set, but in actual fact belongs everywhere in the orchestra. And magically, Mr Prieto has, in fact, become the orchestra that he animates and in the myriad of stories that are told or, more appropriately-speaking, sung the characters in this moving, passion play change. In some of the lead character is an animated trumpet, or an alto saxophone, a trombone, piano, bass and also, of needs be, a drum.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset

There is a mighty dynamic that propels this music throughout. But it is never at the same pace. Nor does the music move in a linear, predictable path. Rather it meanders, leaps in parabolic arcs, travels in profound dreamy movements with grace and power. “Back to the Sunset”, for instance is Mr Prieto’s luxurious chromatically winding ballad featuring the identifiably singular voice of Henry Threadgill on alto saxophone. The stunningly slow piece is highly imaginative and the twisting, ornamented solo melody is evocative of the protagonist exploring the vastness of time and space. Likewise with the scurrying “Una Vez Más” which announces the big band sound at the very outset as it progresses in a huge orchestral score marked with sensuous melodic inventions that unfold in Brian Lynch’s explosions of dazzling colour.

The same holds true for “Song for Chico”, a song that is dedicated to one of Mr Prieto’s mentors, Chico O’Farrill. Here Steve Coleman casts his gigantic shadow over the piece. In the music of this piece Mr Prieto clearly retains a deep reverence for what most of us still consider the summation and perfection of maestro O’Farrill. Mr Coleman – like the other guest soloists and indeed, all of the members of the big band – show that they have grasped the vision and artistry of Mr Prieto with nuanced perfection. Throughout the music of this recording Mr Prieto, its composer and director, makes musicianship dominate. He taps into the subtle arts of his fellow performers, to create a benchmark recording. The many jewels of this recording are marked by individual performances of enormous skill, as well as grand ensemble choruses the likes of which one will have to walk many miles to discover in their lifetime.

Dafnis Prieto Big Band – Back to the Sunset is a 61st Grammy Awards Winner in the Best Latin Jazz Album Category.

Track list – 1: Una Vez; 2: The Sooner the Better; 3: Out of the Bone; 4: Back to the Sunset; 5: Danzonish Potpourri; 6: Song for Chico; 7: Prelude Para Rosa; 8: Two for One; 9: The Triumphant Journey

Personnel – Mike Rodríguez: trumpet and flugelhorn; Nathan Eklund: trumpet and flugelhorn; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet and flugelhorn; Josh Deutsch: trumpet and flugelhorn; Román Filiú: alto and soprano saxophone, flute and clarinet; Michael Thomas: alto and soprano saxophone, flute and piccolo; Peter Apfelbaum: tenor and soprano saxophone and melodica; Joel Frahm: tenor and soprano saxophone; Chris Cheek: baritone saxophone; Tim Albright: trombone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Jacob Garchik: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Manuel Valera: piano; Ricky Rodríguez: acoustic and electric bass; Roberto Quintero: congas, bongos and percussion; Dafnis Prieto: drums and music director; Brian Lynch: trumpet (1); Henry Threadgill: alto saxophone (4); Steve Coleman: alto saxophone (6)

Released – 2018
Label – Dafnison Music
Runtime – 1:15:34

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.

By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.

Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.

From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.

Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.

It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.

Deo gratis…

Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz

Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums [9]

Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues

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