How would you like to receive a phone call out of the blue to find out you will be receiving $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years? That’s exactly what happened to SABIAN endorser Dafnis Prieto, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving artist! Dafnis recently learned he was one of 22 new MacArthur Fellows for 2011. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, other Fellows included an architect, a sports medicine researcher, a cellist, a developmental biologist, a radio producer, a neurologist, a conservator, a poet, a technologist, and a public historian. All have been selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.
MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavours. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavour. It’s little wonder that Dafnis was selected: he is a percussionist and composer who infuses Latin jazz with bold new energy and sound, dazzling technical abilities, and rhythmically adventurous composition. His dazzling technical abilities electrify audiences and his rhythmically adventurous compositions combine a wide range of musical vocabularies.
A classically trained musician who absorbed from an early age the multifaceted percussive traditions of his native Cuba, Prieto transposes elements from his Afro-Cuban musical heritage onto a jazz drum kit, incorporating congas, timbales, and the layered rhythmic patterns of rumba and son. Whether performing as a solo artist, bandleader, or sideman, his playing is characterized by a finely calibrated command of textures and nuances and an ability to execute highly complex, polyrhythmic structures with extraordinary speed and precision.
As a composer, Prieto melds modern jazz harmonies, Cuban clave rhythms, other Latin and African influences, and funk-inspired arrangements to create works of great stylistic diversity that evoke a broad spectrum of moods. His 2006 recording, Absolute Quintet, showcases both his powerful and propulsive playing as well as his interest in composing for a nonstandard ensemble of organ, cello, violin, saxophone, and drums. The morphing rhythms and time signatures of Taking the Soul for a Walk (2008) further demonstrate Prieto’s compositional reach and graceful way of slowing down or speeding up a given tempo. Through these and other recordings, his leadership of numerous ensembles, and additional projects involving dance, film, and opera, Prieto is infusing Latin jazz with a bold new energy and sound.
Dafnis Prieto studied at the National School of Music in Havana, Cuba, before coming to the United States in 1999. His additional recordings as a leader include About the Monks (2005) and Si o Si Quartet: Live at the Jazz Standard (2009), and he has performed at venues and in festivals throughout the United States, including the Jazz Standard, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art. Since 2005, he has served as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University.
A heartfelt congratulations goes out to Dafnis from his SABIAN family. We are extremely proud to be associated with an artist of his calibre, and we wish him only the best in his future endeavors. Need less to say, we can’t wait to see and hear to see the fascinating and inspiring work this fellowship will allow him to complete over the next 5 years.
For more information on Dafnis and the MacArthur Fellowship, please visit http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.7731001/k.7CF9/Dafnis_Prieto.htm.
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