BIG EARS

Dafnis Prieto’s Sí o Sí Quartet

Dafnis Prieto’s
Sí o Sí Quartet

When Dafnis Prieto moved to New York from Cuba in 1999, “he needed very little time to scare the pants off most drummers in jazz and Afro-Cuban music,” NPR said. This was due to his scholarly but highly musical facility with the clave, the rhythmic building block of forms such as salsa, rumba, conga, and son.

From those virtuosic beginnings, Prieto has earned major awards, a MacArthur Fellowship, and an equally lustrous reputation as a sideman and a composer. His gifts were heard most recently on his albums Back to the Sunset, which won a Grammy in 2018, and Transparency, one of the best Latin jazz albums of 2020, according to the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. “A lot of bands, many of them Cuban ones, can show you how polyrhythm works with great clarity, as if demonstrating the intersection of gears,” Ben Ratliff said in The New York Times. “Mr. Prieto routinely does that all alone, with grace notes, even when he’s playing behind someone else’s solo. But his style of composition explicitly puts the ensemble first.”

The quartet is a centrifuge in which Cuban folk and contemporary jazz spin together with hypnotic finesse, as was captured on the album Live at Jazz Standard NYC. “[Prieto’s] time is dense but uncongested, intense without ostentation,” All About Jazz said of the performance. “As principal soloists, Apfelbaum and Valera have complementary musical personalities—the saxophonist intuitive, offhandedly charismatic, the pianist more deliberate, relentlessly creative.”

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Knoxville, TN · USA

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