With the spectacularly intriguing album Cantar the drummer, composer, pedagogue and – now in one fell swoop – an out-and-out songwriter as well, Dafnis Prieto makes a magical transition from a composer and performer of his maddeningly intricate rhythm-driven melodies to full-blooded lyric repertoire. Make no mistake, this also means that his music comes with original [lyrics] that meet the highest standards of poetic content in song. As an additional master-stroke Mr Prieto has featured, alongside himself and an exquisite [accompanying] quartet, the ineffably wonderful – and mystical interpreter of song – the vocal-gymnast, Luciana Souza.
You couldn’t ask for a more potent pairing of musicians. As a drummer of considerable repute Mr Prieto comes with a musical temperament that forges rugged, a salt-of-the-earth approach to rhythmic colouring with high-flying sophistication and thrilling complexity. Meanwhile Ms Souza [who has also contributed the lyrics of the baião “Houve um Tempo”, collaborated to the English-language original “The Muse” and translated the bolero, “Amanhecer Contigo” into Portuguese] is a vocalist who is capable of such delicate fragility and vulnerable emotion that she could quite literally bring even the most stoic listener to tears, and who – at the flip of a switch, with incredible leaping, aria-like coloratura – produce theatrical fireworks that can ignite a narrative and all-but burn down the proverbial house.
For the record, Ms Souza gives immediate notice of this ability to make an impossible leaping traversal across multiple layers and registers with blistering rhythmic and high-sprung beauty on “Guajira en Sol”. This dramatics throughout the vocal elements of this album receive a significant boost because Mr Prieto himself has mastered the art of rhythmic-vocalastic styles that range from his own invented style that can mimic not only [Brasilian] instruments, but even the most complicated rhythmic Afro-Cuban patterns to the Indian [Carnatic] form of konnokol, an extremely difficult style of vocal percussion, which combines vocal inflection with near-impossible arithmetical tempi. [Deep-listening to “Houve Um Tempo” and “To the Concert” is highly recommended].
However, all these hi-jinx apart, Mr Prieto – with Ms Souza’s magical interpretations of his work – has managed to craft an album of immense, songful and poetic beauty. Who knew that the drummer had a romantic bone in his body? Apparently no one but Mr Prieto, it would appear… According to his note accompanying the album he has harboured a dream of writing songs for a considerable length of time and has worked on ideas – and perhaps – even whole sections of these works over an extended period of time before finally pulling out the stops and producing the repertoire on Cantar.
Equally of note is the fact that Mr Prieto has managed to retain the intriguing rhythmic inventions that are characteristic of his compositional style, while adding layers of lyricism topped up with tonal beauty and colour to all of the songs. Over and above the inimitable vocals of Ms Souza, the album also brings together other heavyweight musicians.
The multi-instrumentalist, Peter Apfelbaum is monumental throughout, as the other – often lead – voice on the charts. “Guajira en Lu” is just one example of Mr Apfelbaum’s melodic and harmonic ingenuity. The pianist Martin Bejerano also comes with artistic – melodic, harmonic and [crucially] rhythmic – heft in spades. Internalising each song and almost making it his own he returns the music to its composer with quantum surprise. The virtuosity of bassist Matt Brewer is subtly and tastefully expressed as he becomes – quite literally – the drummer’s harmonic and rhythmic doppelgänger.
This album has so much going for it – including the Grammy-award-winning and elegant touch of Larry Klein [co-producer along with Eric Oberstein] – that it is going to take many hours of repeated listening for the full extent of its wondrous achievements to be realised.
Tracks – 1: Guajira en Sol; 2: When I Miss You; 3: Houve Um Tempo; 4: Sueño de Amor; 5: To the Concert; 6: Brisa; 7: Amanhecer Contigo; 8: Unknown Man; 9: The Muse; 10: Guajira en Lu
Musicians – Dafnis Prieto: drums, percussion, vocals and music director; Luciana Souza: vocals and percussion; Peter Apfelbaum: woodwinds, melodica, percussion and keyboards; Martin Bejerano: piano; Matt Brewer: contrabass and electric bass
Released – 2022
Label – Dafnison Music 
Runtime – 48:55
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