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#128 Dafnis Prieto- Grammy Winning Drummer, Educator, Composer & More!

#128 Dafnis Prieto- Grammy Winning Drummer, Educator, Composer & More!

From Santa Clara, Cuba, Dafnis Prieto’s revolutionary drumming techniques and compositions have had a powerful impact on the Latin and Jazz music scene, nationally and internationally.

Various honors include a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship, Up & Coming Musician of the Year from the Jazz Journalists Association in 2006, a 2018 GRAMMY Award and Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Dafnis Prieto Big Band Back to the Sunset, a GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Absolute Quintet in 2006, and a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist in 2007. Also a gifted educator, Prieto has conducted master classes, clinics, and workshops throughout the world. He was a faculty member of Jazz Studies at NYU from 2005 to 2014, and in 2015 became a faculty member at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.

Since his arrival to New York in 1999, Prieto has worked in bands led by Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, Dave Samuels and The Caribbean Jazz Project, Jane Bunnett, D.D. Jackson, Edward Simon, Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdés, Bebo Valdés, Roy Hargrove, Don Byron, and Andrew Hill, among others. He has performed at many national and international music festivals as a sideman and as a bandleader featuring several of his own projects and music.

As a composer, he has created music for dance, film, chamber ensembles, and most notably for his own bands, ranging from duets to big band, and including the distinctively different groups featured on seven acclaimed recordings as a leader: About The MonksAbsolute QuintetTaking the Soul For a WalkSi o Si Quartet: Live at Jazz StandardDafnis Prieto Proverb Trio, Triangles and Circles, and Back to the Sunset. He has received commissions, grants, and fellowships from Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, East Carolina University, and Meet the Composer. In 2016 Prieto published the critically acclaimed drumming instructional book, A World of Rhythmic Possibilities: Drumming Lessons and Reflections on Rhythms.

Gig Alerts for this week…..

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico & Los Van Van de Cuba (TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN U.S. HISTORY) performing at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes 501 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA. Thursday, June 20th, 6:00 PM, 21+. If you have questions, call: 310-729-2706. Also, Coachella Is Already Selling Tickets for Its 2020 Festival.

Marcos will be playing with Karibe Mambo this weekend…..(he also mentions the New Swing Sextet, NEW ALBUM)


Damon will be playing with Morgan James in the Mid-Atlantic with Morgan James……(Marcos mentions the clip where she makes up a song on the “fly” written by an adorable little guest)

Morgan final week.jpg

Iconic recordings for this week…..

First, R.I.P. to Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys, who passed away at 52 from pancreatic cancer issues. One of their more popular tunes was “My Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me”, which features a sample from Isaac Hayes and the Movements’ “Hung Up On My Baby”. The Movement was a group that was formed from the Bar-Kays. The drummer was Willie Hall and the percussionist was Gary Jones. The other iconic recording is, “Chirrin Chirran” by Los Van Van, featuring Jose Luis “Changuito” Quintana. Damon refers to the Gonzalo Rubalcaba album “Supernova” featuring Ignacio Berroa on drums and Luisito Quintero on percussion.

Music News for this week……..

Meet Primephonic, The Streaming Company On A Mission To Save Classical Music. NYC Mayor's Office Announces $500,000 in Grants for Female Musicians. Bandzoogle Adds Commission-Free Crowdfunding for Musicians. Woodstock 50’s Venue Pulls Out, Citing Breach of Contract.

The song leading into the interview is: “Song for Chico” by the Dafnis Prieto Big Band.

Damon recalls first meeting and seeing Dafnis play at the Zinc Bar in NYC with John Benitez.

Dafnis talks about the difference in the styles of Rumba from Havana to Matanzas Cuba. He even mentions the Carnival music in Santiago Cuba.

Dafnis studied at the Santa Clara (Cuba) musical conservatory till about 14 before moving to Havana and studying at the National School of Music.

One of the first influences in Dafnis’ drumset playing was Juan Carlos Rojas, aka El Peje.

Dafnis has a book out that you should check out called “A World of Rhythmic Possibilities”. One of the concepts he talks about is practicing the clave with one limb and reading the rhythms of the George Stone “Stick Control” book with another limb. He also used to do similar exercises with his friends using the Buddy Rich snare drum etude book.

Dafnis got to work with the great Changuito in a project led by Hilario Duran which also featured Tata Guines.

Dafnis mentions some drummers in Cuba you might not have heard of. They are Enrique Pla and also Julio Barreto. Damon mentions hearing Julio play with a sax player named Tony Martinez. Dafnis also talks about Calixto Oviedo, and Jimmy Branly and the band NG La Banda. Damon mentions that Jimmy can also play bass and here is an example of him playing drums and bass.

Before coming to the USA, Dafnis lived in Spain for a couple of years and then made his way to Canada. He worked with Jane Bunnett and then was able to come to the USA on a music related visa.

Once in NYC, some of the people that helped Dafnis get situated were trumpet player Brian Lynch, saxophonist Henry Threadgill, and saxophonist Steve Coleman.

Marcos brings up Dafnis’ first album. You can check out ALL of his albums by going HERE. Around the same time he recorded on John Benitez’s album with similar musicians (linked to above) and both of those albums were recorded at Peter Karl Studios in Brooklyn NYC.

One of the songs on “About the Monks” was called “Tumba Francesa”, which is also a style of folkloric music in Cuba that inspired the track.

Shortly after, Dafnis started playing with the Caribbean Jazz Project as well.

One of the inspirations in Dafnis’ arranging and composing was the trumpet player Booker Little and how he wrote for the horns.

Dafnis used to teach at NYU and has moved to Miami and now teaches at the Frost School of Music.

Marcos found an article that talks about how the brain wants to hear repetition in music. That article is also a TED TALK.

Damon mentions the bass player Panagiotis Andreou being able to play in 4/4 time easily because he grew up with Greek music and a lot of odd meters.

Dafnis has a big band and they recently won a grammy. You can check out more about the band HERE. You can also get the album HERE.

Dafnis’ cymbals, brushes and drum keys have all gotten flagged at the TSA.

Dafnis uses Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth Sticks, Sabian Cymals , Evans Drumheads and Latin Percussion instruments.

You can follow Dafnis on his Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & YouTube.

The song leading out of the interview is: “The Triumphant Journey” by the Dafnis Prieto Big Band.

#129 Luis Conte- Percussionist, Educator, Author and More!

#129 Luis Conte- Percussionist, Educator, Author and More!

#127 Jamie Eckert- Steel Pan/Percussionist, Percussion Faculty at Umass Dartmouth and More!

#127 Jamie Eckert- Steel Pan/Percussionist, Percussion Faculty at Umass Dartmouth and More!