This first record made by Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto since he received his MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” in 2011 lives up to the honor by occupying a unique musical space that challenges the listener with its melange of jazz, funk and rock born of spontaneous improvisation. Many of the dozen songs on Proverb Trio (fashioned via live improvisational performances together over the past two years) can initially sound a tad too conventional until the various textures and tones start emerging from the sonic weave. But open-minded listeners who don’t succumb to faux-sophisticated jazz purity will be rewarded by the blossoming of these tunes over time.
Prieto, who has been an international prodigy since touring Europe as a teen in the early ’90s, roams the kit like a blend of Cobham and Jack DeJohnette, with an added dash of Cuban panache. Vocalist Kokayi (a former Steve Coleman cohort) mixes it up between R&B crooning, and vocalese influenced by both ancient Africa and contemporary hip-hop. Keyboardist Jason Lindner, a jazz titan equally comfortable in big bands, electric funk outfits and intimate acoustic ensembles, unleashes a rainbow of mood-enhancers that range from throb-heavy bass notes to sparse electronic effects to spectral harmonies. By one dictionary definition, a proverb is something that “condenses common experience into a memorable form.” The Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio is well named.