Three horns and a rhythm trio can make for some of
the most engaging jazz, especially when there’s cohesiveness and
original music. That’s what you’re in store for with the Dafnis Prieto
Sextet’s Triangles and Circles (Dafnison Music, 2015).
Drummer Dafnis Prieto is supported by Johannes Weidenmueller on acoustic
and electric bass; Peter Apfelbaum on tenor and soprano saxophones and
melodica; Felipe Lamoglia on alto saxophone; Mike Rodriguez on trumpet;
and ever-present pianist Manuel Valera.
The title song begins with Prieto offering some tom rolls and working
other elements of the kit. After he’s sufficiently warmed up, piano and
bass signal the start of something. The horns may be the triangle of
this piece. They blend during parts of the main theme, but then they
split, each representing one side, playing nearly identical phrases in
turns. The effect is like a rolling wave. Then Lamoglia goes on a jaunt
with the alto, followed by Apfelbaum’s tenor. The horns then join as a
unit, complementing Valera’s almost solo. Almost because while he’s
doing his thing on piano, Prieto shows off a little on the side. It’s an
interesting arrangement wherein the background players appear to be on
equal footing as whoever has the lead.
“The Evil in You” has a scolding tone, as if the musicians are
collectively having it out with a spiteful, conniving lover. A highlight
is the series of tightly syncopated phrases, with the trumpet and alto
bouncing off the tenor, while bass, piano and drums punctuate. The
syncopation continues underneath blistering solos by Rodriguez,
Apfelbaum and Lamoglia. One can imagine an angry boyfriend or spouse
going off verbally on the offending partner, and just when you think
he’s done, in comes a brother and a best friend. By the time they’re
done, you might feel grateful there was no blood.
Two other tracks of note are the quirky “Blah Blah Blah” and its
companion, “Blah Blah.”
Prieto is the recipient of a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship. A native of
Cuba, he is classically trained but also has a flare for the percussive
traditions of homeland. He mixes his Afro-Cuban heritage with jazz by
incorporating congas, timbales and the rhythms of rumba and son styles.
Prieto’s 2006 album, Absolute Quintet, was nominated for a
Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. He has received commissions,
works and grants from Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center,
East Carolina University and Meet the Composer. Professional
associations include Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, Dave Samuels and the
Caribbean Jazz Project, Jane Bunnett, Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdez, Roy
Hargrove and more.
Triangles and Circles is Prieto’s sixth recording as a leader.