Dafnis Prieto and Luciana Souza make the New York debut of their album “Cantar” (To sing); in an Uptown Nights at Harlem Stage in Manhattanville, West Harlem; on Friday, October 27, 2023 at 7pm & 9pm. From $25. harlemstage.org 🇨🇺 🇧🇷
These two make some very romantic music. It is going to be one hot Uptown Night.
New York Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto is a Grammy-winning MacArthur Genius Fellow (2011), and Latin Grammy nominee. Like many Cuban jazz musicians, Prieto’s thinking and playing are way ahead of most people. His drumming is kind of out of this world. He doesn’t just keep time. He keeps time and space.
Prieto is from Santa Clara, Cuba. It’s the capital of Villa Clara province in Central Cuba. On the island, he studied both classical and Afro-Cuban music, one of the roots of jazz.
Polyrhythms, playing multiple rhythms at the same time, are a unique African and Diaspora tradition that makes amazing drummers. Try it. Try to keep a 2/4 rhythm and a 3/4 rhythm going at the same time. It’s really hard, impossible for most of us. He is some kind of genius with multiple brains in his head. Prieto doesn’t just beat standard time. He plays melodies on the drum. We would call him a singing drum.
Dafnis moved to New York City in 1999 and has played with many New York Latin jazz legends.
With nine albums so far as a leader, Prieto keeps getting nominations and wins for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” His “Absolute Quintet” earned the first nomination in 2007. “Back to the Sunset” won the 2018 Grammy and was nominated for the Latin Grammy. His 2021 album, “Transparency” was Grammy nominated as well.
Known in New York as a master teacher, Prieto taught music at New York University and also at the University of Miami.
Luciana Souza was raised in a bossa nova family in São Paulo, the capital of Brazil. She was born in 1966, the year when youth culture and bossa nova went global. Her father was a singer-songwriter, and her mother a poet and lyricist. She received both of their natural gifts. Both music and poetry are part of her work today. She has set the poems of Neruda, Leonard Cohen, Emily Dickinson and others to music.
From her bossa nova roots, Souza is deeply grounded in jazz, and has this natural ability to flow with all kinds of global music. She is the kind of artist who is just as comfortable in a smoky jazz club as she is with a symphony orchestra.
She graduated from Berklee College of Music and was on faculty at the famed school of music which produces a steady stream of top Latin jazz musicians. Berklee has become a success machine. You can hear that polished sound in its students.
One of Souza’s claims to fame is her work with Herbie Hancock on his Grammy-winning record “River – The Joni Letters.” But she has played with a who’s who of the music industry.
She has been named “Best Female Jazz Singer” twice by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Even if you don’t understand the words when Luciana Souza sings in Portuguese, you understand her feelings ~ no translation needed.
This 2022 album is a heavy-hitter project. It is co-produced by legendary Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein (Souza’s husband), and long-time Prieto collaborator, Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning producer Eric Oberstein.
The album’s band is Martin Bejerano on piano, Matt Brewer on bass, and Peter Apfelbaum on woodwinds, keys, and percussion.
Prieto plays both the beat and the space in between. He knows when to hit it, and when to just let it go. It’s easy to just breath in the overall vibe of one of his songs, but if you try to break it down rhythmically, his complexity and sophistication are surprising. “Cantar” is a change for Dafnis because he writes songs with lyrics.
Souza’s sweet bossa nova voice is the perfect complement. Together they are like a cool breeze on a warm day at the beach. Their music carries you away and makes the mind wander and dream. It’s like looking in your lover’s eyes. In fact, you want this music to be playing when you look into your lover’s eyes.
Cuba and Brazil are Different Branches of the Same Roots
Cuban and Brazilian music fit together naturally. Their Spanish and Portuguese colonizers are neighbors in Iberia. Both Cuba and Brazil had vibrant Indigenous traditions (Brazil still does) and remain centers of African Diaspora culture in the Americas.
If you study the Dahomey, Yoruba, and Kongo traditions of Mother Africa that rooted in the Americas, you can’t help but notice the similarities. Americans tend to see the traditions as different, because our English heritage is a culture of separation. There are differences, but the most striking thing is how similar we are. Even if various Indigenous and African peoples spoke different languages, everyone understood the drum. We also share very similar communal traditions.
Cuban Yoruba traditions became rumba and son Cubano, the roots of Latin jazz and salsa. Brazilian Candomblé traditions became samba, the root of bossa nova jazz. It all comes back together in Dafnis Prieto and Luciana Souza, “Cantar” because when Latin people get together we sing, and drum, and dance.