3 Sides of the Coin
Release Date: September 27, 2024

25 years after his arrival in New York, the GRAMMY-winning and Latin GRAMMY-nominated drummer, composer, and MacArthur Fellow Dafnis Prieto has utterly shifted the sonic landscape of the jazz and creative music scene. With Prieto’s appearance on the NYC jazz scene likened to “an asteroid hitting the city” (The New York Times), and a reputation that rightfully lauds him as “one of the most multidimensional artists working today” (JazzTimes), the Cuban drummer is poised to strike once again with his upcoming 10th album, 3 Sides of the Coin. This album marks the studio return of Prieto’s acclaimed Sí o Sí (“Yes or Yes”) Quartet, a rightfully jubilant cohort comprising Peter Apfelbaum on woodwinds, Martin Bejerano on piano, and Ricky Rodríguez on electric bass, brought together to commemorate both the bandleader’s quarter century in the United States and his 50th birthday.

3 Sides of the Coin began as a series of musings on the eternally undulating concept of one’s interpretation of the world and how each person’s view may dramatically differ. “The concept of the album was born from the intriguing and puzzling concept of ‘perception of reality,’ of how different people can perceive and interpret a specific circumstance or a simple object,” Prieto says. Using the analogy of a coin, Prieto explores how in addition to the two objective sides that are always evident on a coin, there is an unspoken third, which is an individual’s interpretation of the physical fact of the coin. “This album is about that third side: the side that looks, observes, and interprets in a personal way a reality that might not coincide with others - your own perception of life,” Prieto says. He further expands on this idea of the tangible coin: “The coin brings a quality of ‘solid physicality,’ yet even it can be interpreted in so many ways. Therefore, the meaning that we give to those objects and/or circumstances is completely relative to how we are able to interpret them, whether collectively or individually.”

Prieto’s musical style is a deeply personal amalgamation of his artistic development and individual experiences. Each track on this album is an original composition that embodies a concept or character that adds to Prieto’s exploration of perception. The end result is a comprehensive mosaic of vignettes that captures different angles on the idea of interpretation itself. To achieve this effect, Prieto draws on a variety of musical influences. Ranging from strong roots in his native Cuban styles and the firm foundation of Jazz and Funk to lesser-represented styles within cultural fusions of South Indian and European Classical music, Prieto masterfully paints with each of these palettes to portray his vision with a perfect variety of perspectives. 

Each of the timbres and soundscapes present on each song directly ties its respective character and concept. The album opens with “Caprichos Cubanos,” a strong opener that is dedicated to the people and culture of Cuba. This is immediately followed by “Conga Ingenua,” a nostalgic piece that harkens back to Prieto’s infancy and his first experiences interacting with and listening to the music of Cuba. The title directly evokes this and translates as “Naive Conga.” The album continues with “Two Sides of the Coin,” a nod to the album’s title that plays with the idea of interwoven themes and perception. In this piece, two different themes coexist and interact complementarily without ever subverting the other, like two sides of the same coin. The third - the element of perception - is subtly present here as well. This track is chased by “Naive,” a piece that acts, as Prieto describes, as “a lovely and spiritual reflection on that state of existence.” Later in the album, listeners encounter the paired tracks “Humanoid” and “Funky Humanoid.” The former is a take on the contemporary overlap of science and fiction as they overlap and shape the future of humankind. The latter is based on the same ideas as the former, but is presented in a funk-driven groove and expression. “Alba” continues this musical exploration of science and is inspired by the existence of Alba, a genetically modified green rabbit. The penultimate track on the album, “Temptation,” is a quartet arrangement of the bandleader’s 2022 piece, “Tentación,” originally composed for the timba band People of Earth, accompanied by string orchestra, and was performed across the United States by the Louisville Orchestra, the L.A. Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, and the Britt Festival Orchestra. The album concludes with “The Happiest Boy in Town” and is a perspective on that cornerstone of jazz history, Charlie Parker, inspired by a picture of him smiling. 

In a quartet, the contributions of every member are vital. Of the Sí o Sí Quartet, who first recorded together in the 2009 album, Live at Jazz Standard NYC, Prieto is quick to express gratitude for the role each member played in shaping the music. “Peter, Martin, and Ricky have mastered their instruments, and they all have their own personal sound,” Prieto says. “That chemistry in the band is well documented in this album. The synchronicity and the connection had to be there, otherwise we would not have been able to play this music the way we did.” Prieto cites the band’s 15-year span together in various iterations as a primary reason the album is executed with such authenticity and precision. “You can hear this connection during the beautiful and challenging melodies, but also during the different sections in the song, including the solo sections,” he says. Also present on this album are two key collaborators: GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning producer Eric Obserstein, who is Prieto’s longstanding co-producer, and GRAMMY-winning engineer Mike Marciano, who recorded, mixed, and mastered the album. 

With 3 Sides of the Coin, Prieto goes above and beyond even his own reputation. By taking the compositional and performance brilliance for which he is rightly beloved and marrying it to such a bold and pensive concept, Prieto shows that not only is he a musician of the highest caliber, but a thinker, storyteller, and sonic orator of the heart.

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