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Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio Brings Latin Jazz Improv to Summer Fest

In Music
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There’s no way to know what exactly to expect from Proverb Trio—the latest project by renowned Latin-Afro-Jazz drummer Dafnis Prieto—because even the band members don’t know.

The trio, performing Saturday at San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, features Prieto on drums, Jason Lindner on keys and Grammy-nominated vocalist and rapper Kokayi on vocals, is so cutting-edge that they create completely improvised, free-form songs, but are able to quickly find patterns in the music and create what sounds almost like prewritten songs.

“The whole idea is improvisation as spontaneous composition as though it was preconceived,” Prieto says. “We just look at each other and whoever feels like starting it starts. We like to stretch out as much as possible. We stretch out in many different styles or genres.”

As good as they are in creating order out of thin air, what makes it unlike watching a standard group is that every moment is completely spontaneous. The potential for anything to happen exists in every moment. In other words, it’s about as vibrant as you can get.

“It always comes out different. It’s a very exciting event, as much for us the performer, for the audience as well. They are experiencing something that is very unique at that exact moment as well because we don’t have anything planned. We are completely open to anything that happens. We cover a lot of different music and styles when we play, but always from a very personal point of view, from our point of view. We’re not trying to imitate anyone,” Prieto says.

Proverb Trio recorded an album in 2012 titled Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio, which, like their shows, was completely made up in the studio while tapes were rolling.

As strange as the concept is, it’s really not that unusual for Prieto, who, ever since he moved to the states from Cuba in 1999, has been impressing people with his innovative fusion drumming styles, and unusual musical philosophies.

When leading his own band, he sees his role as something more than just keeping the beat. He is there to also compose music. He plays beats as though they were a melodic instrument, whether influenced by Latin, jazz, African beats, or even sound atypical to drums.

“For me, creativity isn’t a formula that you just put a little bit of jazz and a little bit of punk or a little bit of this and a little bit of that. That’s a very obvious process. It’s obviously easier, but in my way, I try to personalize that. So when it comes out it’s sincere. I’m not copying something. I internalize the music. I try to capture the meaning of it. I try to capture the essence of the music, more than just the rhythm,” Prieto says. “Sometimes I play rhythms I don’t even know where they’re coming from. It’s irrelevant to me in the moment. I am trying to convey what the music means according to my point of view.”

Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio

Sat, Aug 10, noon
San Jose Rep Stage

ALSO READ: Make it Funky: Lyrics Born Discusses James Brown Tribute Show at San Jose’s Jazz Summer Fest

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