For his ninth recording as leader, drummer Dafnis Prieto showcases songcraft in the company of his extraordinary vocal collaborator Luciana Souza.
“Guajira en Sol” opens the door in Spanish with a bright, pointillistic landscape before giving way to a dark, heartbreakingly beautiful “When I Miss You.” The cinematic songs contain images from the natural world: earth, sky, clouds, wind. Prieto reveals his heart in the poetic, lilting “Brisa” with a catchy countermelody on melodica. He even steps before the mic to sing with a tala-like intensity on “To the Concert,” which has wild, dissonant moments. Both Prieto’s and Souza’s combustible vocals ignite flames, with pianist Martin Bejerano and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum acting as accelerants. Bejerano begins to play with fists rather than fingers and Apfelbaum wails, honks, and double-times his variations.
Souza, meanwhile, sings the infectious samba “Houve um Tempo” in Portuguese; it is joyous, and for one fleeting moment all is right with the world. The vocalist is remarkable, especially on the gorgeous “Amanhecer Contigo” and the poetic, mysterious “The Muse.” She also contributes lyrics to two compositions and translates a third into Portuguese. (Otherwise, all songs and lyrics are Prieto’s.)
As with any Prieto project, there is astonishing drum work, most notably on “Unknown Man” and “Guajira en Lu.” But this is not an ordinary drummer-led session. With its emphasis on composition, supported by the inspiring Souza and a creative cast of characters, Cantar shows Prieto as one of the most multidimensional artists working today.