Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back To The Sunset

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Cuban-born drummer, composer and bandleader Dafnis Prieto releases the Dafnis Prieto Big Band’s debut album, “Back to the Sunset”, on Friday, April 6, 2018.

Prieto composed and arranged nine tunes for the album,  honoring his musical heroes and mentors including Eddie Palmieri, Chico O’Farrill, Bebo Valdés, Jane Bunnett, and Michel Camilo.

The line-up of the band features 5 saxophones, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, piano, bass, drums and percussion, almost like a classic big band, the sound however is true Latin jazz.

The CD starts with “Una Vez Más” featuring Brian Lynch on trumpet and is dedicated to Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri & Brian Lynch. After a long intro, starting easy with bass, drums and percussion, the volume and intensity increases by adding more registers and the trumpet starts with the melody. We hear a Eddie Palmierei-inspired piano by Manuel Valera and a great trumpet solo by Brian Lynch.

The second song “The Sooner the Better” is dedicated to Egberto Gismonti & Jerry González and is a slower tune, but with great dynamics.

“Out Of The Bone” surprises with different modes, starting with a steady beat and switches to a faster Samba-like groove.

The title song “Back to the Sunset” features Henry Threadgill on alto sax and is dedicated to Henry Threadgill & Andrew Hill. It starts very elegiac and gives the soloist the necessary space to perform in his unique and free style.

The 5th song “Danzonish Potpourri”, dedicated to Bebo Valdés, Art Blakey & Jane Bunnett returns back to Latin groove. The melody is nice and easy but the arrangement is very sophisticated changing grooves and dynamics.

“Song for Chico” featuring Steve Coleman (alto sax), dedicated to Chico O’Farrill, Arturo O’Farrill & Mario Bauzá, comes with a great horn section arrangement before Steve Coleman starts with his solo.

“Prelude Para Rosa” (dedicated to Bobby Carcassés & Dave Samuels) begins with a contemporary-jazz piano solo before the band takes over. After tempo and style change from Swing to Latin the main theme is built-up starting with the sax section and culminating after 4 minutes with the trumpets. 

“Two For One” is dedicated to Buddy Rich, Chucho Valdés & Hermeto Pascoal has again a long intro, based on a drum-vamp and shows the band playing under full speed with just a little time to take a breath during the saxophone and piano solo. At the end we get to hear a excellent drum and percussion solo.

The last song “The Triumphant Journey” is dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo and the main theme is one of the highlights of the CD. Great melody, excellent arrangement and played perfectly. The first solo goes to the trumpet, obviously, followed by saxophone and trombone solos and ends with the magnificent theme.

This CD is really intense and eruptive, you feel the energy and the power of the music and the musicians. The arrangements are excellent and the band brings together some of the world’s best Latin jazz musicians, many of whom have previously played Prieto’s music in his other bands.

The band  strives to make an impact as a leading Latin jazz big band recording and performing for years to come, and to provide a platform for Prieto to write for big band, a format he fell in love with as a child.

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Here is the complete line-up:

Mike Rodríguez, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Nathan Eklund, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Alex Sipiagin, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Josh Deutsch, Trumpet, Flugelhorn

Román Filiú, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet
Michael Thomas, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Piccolo
Peter Apfelbaum, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Melodica
Joel Frahm, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax
Chris Cheek, Bari Sax

Tim Albright, Trombone
Alan Ferber, Trombone
Jacob Garchik, Trombone
Jeff Nelson, Bass Trombone

Manuel Valera, Piano
Ricky Rodríguez, Acoustic & Electric Bass
Roberto Quintero, Congas, Bongos, Percussion
Dafnis Prieto, Drums & Music Director

Special Guests:
Brian Lynch, Trumpet (Track 1)
Henry Threadgill, Alto Sax (Track 4)
Steve Coleman, Alto Sax (Track 6)

Produced by Dafnis Prieto & Eric Oberstein

For More Information on the Big Band
visit http://dafnisprietobigband.com 

CD of the Month: Dr. Lonnie Smith – All In My Mind

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My favorite CD at the moment is the latest record from Dr. Lonnie Smith.  Officially released on Jan 12, 2018 it is also one of the first CDs I bought in 2018. The album was recorded live during his week-long 75th birthday celebration at the Jazz Standard in New York City, with his longtime trio of guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake. Special guests are Joe Dyson on drums and singer Alicia Olatuja. The album was produced by Blue Note Records boss Don Was and it fits perfectly into the mission of Blue Note to present the future movements of jazz as well as honoring those who forged the tradition.

The first song on the CD is the Wayne Shorter’s classic modal composition “Juju.” Kreisberg shows his virtuosity and his experience with this song, his solo is very well structured and organized and masters the different parts of the tune perfectly. I would even say that this solo is like a reference for all guitar players when studying this song.

Next up is “Devika”,  composed by the late Dave Hubbard, a tenor saxophonist who worked with Dr. Lonnie Smith.  A slow and groovy tune in perfect contrast to “JuJu” and the 3rd song on the album, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon. Joe Dyson replaces Blake behind the drums on this one and the band shows how much fun they have with this song. The first solo goes to Kreisberg who opens his effects box with and an old-fashioned octave sound in the second part of his solo followed by the Dr. with a soaring organ solo.

The band goes back into a balladesque style with Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night”, which starts soft and gentle but develops great dynamics in the improvisation part.

The next two tunes are originals by Lonnie Smith, first “Alhambra” which has a long free introduction on the synthesizer playing strings, flute and trumpet sounds. Kreisberg starts with his rhythm guitar after 3:30 minutes followed by the Dr. playing the head of the tune and then the improvisations start in a jam style, first Kreisberg followed by Smith with standing ovations after almost 10 minutes of playing.

“All In My Mind”, the title song features singer  Alicia Olatuja, one of the rising stars of the New York jazz and gospel scene. Lonnie Smith recorded this song before but decided to play it again. “It’s the right time to be singing this again,” he says, referring to the meditative lyrics that long for a better world. 

The CD ends with the Freddie Hubbard song “Up Jumped Spring,” a tune he wrote to celebrate the spring season, for which we are all waiting after this long and gray winter in the northern hemisphere. Very easy and relaxed played does it also show the great fun the band and the audience had. No hidden message here, no extra statement on top of the great melody, just plain swinging jazz music.

I am a big fan of organ trios and Dr. Lonnie Smith is one of the masters of this genre. The music comes sometimes with a little twist or an extra surprise (like the introduction in “Alhambra”) but always from the heart.  Smith wanted to record “All In My Mind”in a live setting because, as he says, “It’s so hard to capture what I’m feeling at the moment in the studio. Hearing me live is catching me playing in the moment. It’s a good vibe. It’s a loving situation.”

Enjoy this CD and if you have a chance to see Dr. Lonnie Smith live, don’t miss it.

Finally a playlist from iTunes to give you a chance to listen to the songs: