The title of drummer Dafnis Prieto‘s new book is “A World of Rhythmic Possibilities.”
Prieto—who is a marvelous drummer, inventive bandleader, indispensable sideman to many and a composer of rare grace and subtlety—means this primer as instruction, but not in his technique or any one given approach. Rather, it is a key to unlock that world of possibilities.
When the MacArthur Foundation named Prieto as a Fellow in 2011 (the so-called “genius grant”), the announcement correctly credited Prieto’s “rhythmically adventurous compositions combine a range of musical vocabularies” and noted that he “transposes elements from his Afro-Cuban musical heritage onto a jazz drum kit.”
When I first wrote about him in The Wall Street Journal, Prieto described his initial impression of New York City, his adopted hometown since 1999, “To be honest, it wasn’t really my cup of tea.” New York was different from Barcelona, where he’d spent the previous year, and a far cry from Havana, where he attended the National School of Music. It seemed a world away from Santa Clara, his hometown—”a small Cuban city, very colonial and musical,” he called it—where he first picked up a guitar, and then bongos, before moving on to the trap set with which he’s earned distinction. “Especially in New York, the world keeps getting smaller,” he said. “So my music keeps getting bigger.”
And yet Prieto’s expansive world—the one represented in part by his wonderful 2015 release, “Triangles and Circles” and by his innovative Proverb Trio—and the ones he hopes to awaken in his readers speak not just of crossing geographic borders but also of deepening inner truths.
Prieto’s primer is not only for musicians. Hence his subtitle: “An Analytical and Instructional Book For Drummers, Percussionists and Lovers of Rhythm.”
It’s philosophical as much as practical.
For me, the pull-quote to this sample passage, “Playing What We Want to Hear,” comes at the end:
Playing what we want to hear is much more than hitting the Drums in an arbitrary way. Hence, it is fundamentally related to a deep understanding of sound that is gained through a meticulous process of listening for the sounds both inside and outside of ourselves.