Records like this lend proof to those theories you have to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing to get whatever it is under your belt. Only Prester’s fourth album in a flow that might have gone quicker, he issues fourth a set of almost all originals that click. Snappy stuff that delivers piano led jazz to various fields, this is a happy jazz set that makes you feel good when you play it. He knows his stuff and knows how to present it in a fine light. It’s real and solid jazz for when you just want some jazz you can count on. Tasty throughout.
Even a glance at the bio on pianist Robert Prester’s website makes it abundantly clear that he is as equally at home with classical music as he is with jazz. He’s perhaps most comfortable when marrying the two in his own compositions. Dogtown, his latest album, although focused directly on his work in jazz (especially Latin jazz), makes the point.
In his nine original pieces, plus a variation on the John Coltrane classic, “Giant Steps,” he is not shy about highlighting his classical influences both in his composition and his playing. Bob Seymour’s liner notes point to “a nod to Schumann’s ‘Soldier’s March’” in Prester’s “Toy Soldiers,” as well as his dynamic piano solo in “Realm of Possibility,” as just two examples of Prester’s classical training at work. But perhaps, as he indicates, it is most felt in the “seamless blend of composed and improvised elements.”
Prester, whose playing and two original compositions were a highpoint on Phill Fest’s albumProjecto B.F.C., has put together a set that showcases his unique creative voice with some beautiful sounds. Whether he’s working with his basic trio—bassist Nicky Orta and drummer Etienne Fuentes, Jr.—as on “The Prophecy,” an illuminating exploration of pianistic ideas, or his expanded ensemble—including Dave Schander on hand drums and percussion, Jonathan Sigel on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Terezinha Valois contributing a bit of vocalise—as in the exotic flamenco rhythms of “Noches de Sevilla,” his voice is front and center.
Not to minimize the work of the ensemble, but it is the piano that is the meat and potatoes on this album. Certainly there are moments for almost everyone else, but it is Prester’s stage, and he makes the most of it. From “Vincenzo’s Blues” which opens the album, and the darkly, almost minimalist title track, to the swinging “Sewing Circle,” it is either Prester the pianist or Prester the composer who is on display. Indeed, more often than not, it is both. There is a short Prester time-out with a “Percussion Interlude.” “Bite Size Steps,” which closes the set with its samba take on Coltrane, offers (at least partially) another voice, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule.
That said, it is clear that this is a fine group of musicians who have bought into Prester’s vision and are quite willing to help in the creation of an album that soars above the sum of its parts.
Robert’s jazz piano is exquisite, with all the cool you’d expect, especially on pieces like the beautiful “Beneath Wind’s Shadow“, a Prester original. In fact, 9 of the 10 tunes offered up are originals, & the only one that’s not is Robert’s arrangement of “Giant Steps” – it’s a winner, too. My personal favorite, probably because of the focus on Robert’s keyboard work, was “Realm of Possibility“. Tunes with originality & verve like this are what makes the jazz globe spin… high-spirit & total talent get Robert & crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Robert’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
O's Notes: Prester plays the piano, leads the band, composed and produced all of the music except for a cover of "Giant Steps". Nicky Orta makes a strong statement on bass both anchoring the rhythms and taking the lead as on "Vincenzo's Blues". There's a taste of calypso on "Beneath Wind's Shadow" and a swinging groove that is held together by Prester on "Toy Soldiers". These are only a few of the gems on Dogtown, a winning set!
Robert Prester's "Dogtown" (Commonwealth Ave.) has a breezy Latin-fusion feel that instantly engages. Songs like Vincenzo's Blues, Toy Soldiers and The Prophecy are uplifting pieces that are beautifully crafted and arranged. All of the music except Giant Steps was composed by pianist Prester. As for Giant Steps, it's given a strong Latin piano treatment and Prester doesn't falter, coming at you with a skippy beat and line after joyful line of improvisation. -
By Marc Myers
Robert Prester's Dogtown (Commonwealth Ave.) has a breezy Latin-fusion feel that instantly engages. Songs like Vincenzo's Blues, Toy Soldiers and The Prophecy are uplifting pieces that are beautifully crafted and arranged. All of the music except Giant Steps was composed by pianist Prester. As for Giant Steps, it's given a strong Latin piano treatment and Prester doesn't falter, coming at you with a skippy beat and line after joyful line of improvisation. -
Carew Reynell reviews this album for us:
Robert Prester is a pianist, now based in Florida, whose musical practice ranges from jazz to classical. A measure of his quality is that he has, in the past, collaborated with the likes of Branford Marsalis and Randy Brecker. Dogtown is an album of latin jazz, mostly his own compositions, some performed by his current trio, some with extended resources.
And very competent and likeable it is, too, ranging from blues to flamenco and all stations in-between. But…
But? Well, it is axiomatic that the core trio should be tight, but here, recorded separately rather than as an ensemble, there is limited flexibility or tension, little that is unexpected. It would be good to hear the trio live, but as recorded here the sound is, at times, almost oppressive. When the sound world is restricted to the piano or expands to include trumpet, wordless vocals and additional percussion, the music opens up and the texture is richer.
And is it coincidence that, for me, the stand-out track is the one that is not self-composed? Bite Size Steps is a variation on Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Prester says that it’s ‘a lifelong challenge to come at Giant Steps from different angles.’ An interesting project. This take on the much loved tune has intriguing resonances. The world could do with more of this. There is surely nothing wrong with a bit more drawing on the classics, which can demonstrate just as much originality as self-composed pieces.
Having said that, Prester clearly knows what he is doing with pieces such as the lyrical and elaborate Realm of Possibility and the powerful The Prophecy. The compositions are thoughtful and eschew cliches of structure. Worth a listen, with the potential to go further.
Robert Prester, piano & synthesizer; Nicky Orta, bass; Ettienne Fuentes Jr., drums; Jack Ciano, drums; Dave Schanzer, hand drums and percussion; Terezinha Valois, vocals; Jonathan Sigel, trumpet/flugelhorn
The cartoon cover of this CD is eye catching. It pictures main street USA, cluttered with a wide assortment of canines in human positions; dogs riding bikes, shopping, smoking cigars and getting hair cuts. It made me wonder what the musical content was going to be like inside this odd CD jacket. I was pleasantly surprised.
First cut "Vincenzo's Blues" grabs my attention by the ear and drags me away from everything I was doing. It screams 'pay attention' to my multi-tasking brain and makes me sit quietly and listen. The tune speeds and spins like the Earth revolving around the sun; non-stop, straight-ahead and smoothly. Cut two, is the same with its rich Samba rhythms and pronounced melody line. It too makes me sit-up and take note. Each tune on this album paints a colorful canvas of mixed genres of music and brightly executed rhythms and melodies. Because Prester and his group explore a variety of musical types, you are bound to find something to love on this recording. I have to say I enjoyed every single cut, every diversified arrangement, and especially the musicians, who are above average and highly noteworthy.
These excellent masters of sound provide a complete package of Prester's original compositions. These musicians step outside the arms of mediocrity into the embrace of brilliance.
I immediately hear the virtuosity of Preston on piano and recognize he has spent many hours of practice and prudence to reach such proficiency. His side men match the artist's professionalism and mastery. This CD is a listener's gem, sparkling with originality and talent. It's Prester's fourth album release of original compositions and I wanted to know where he's been and why I'm just hearing about him. So I did some research.
Robert Prester resides, in South Florida, but grew up on the East Coast. At age 3 his parents recognized his natural affinity for the piano and he began studying classical music at the prep-division of the Manhattan School of Music in New York. He was later rewarded with a scholarship to study there and he eventually achieved his Masters Degree in Music at the same institution. As Music Director for the CityKids Foundation Production at the St. James Theater on Broadway, he combined talents with Herbie Hancock and Grover Washington Jr. They all appeared on the Phil Donohue show to promote the production. He's also worked alongside of other jazz luminaries like Randy Brecker and Branford Marsalis.
This is 52 minutes of well executed jazz that is fresh, well-played and innovative. On a scale of one to five, it gets a five star rating from me.
Robert Prester showcases his fluency and lively latin and bop styling on Commonwealth Ave. Productions, Dogtown. The Southern Florida pianist is joined by bassist Nicky Orta, drummer Ettienne Francis, with percussionist Dave Schanzer, vocalist Terezinha Valois and trumpeter Jonathan Sigel all playing on several selections. Jack Ciano replaces Francis on one track.
Prester’s Vincenzo’s Blues is a spirited original that displays his ability to craft catchy themes that the trio bring to life in a lively performance. More of the same is heard on Beneath Wind’s Shadow with Sigel’s bright trumpet complemented by Prester’s fluid piano as Schanzer adds percussive accents. The title track changes the mood and is a tight trio performance is built around an intriguing descending line that Prester and Orta improvise over. Valois’ vocals adds an additional horn voice to Toy Soldiers as well the flamenco inspired Noches de Sevilla, ( percussionist Schanzer is excellent here) that will evoke Sketches of Spain for some,
Prester composed everything but the brief rendition of Coltrane’s Giant Steps (titled Bite Size Steps) that closes this recording. Noches de Sevilla may be the standout performance here, but Dogtown thoughout is a marvelously engaging recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of Rob Prester with Phill Fest.
Dogtown CoMMoNWEALTH AVE. PRoDuCTIoNS
Robert Prester showcases his fluency and lively Latin and bop styling on his Commonwealth Ave. Pro- ductions CD titled “Dogtown.” The Southern Florida pianist is joined by bassist Nicky Orta, drummer Et- tienne Francis, percussionist Dave Schanzer, vocalist Terezinha Valois and trumpeter Jonathan Sigel all playing on several selections. Jack Ciano replaces Francis on one track.
Prester’s “Vincenzo’s Blues” is a spirited original that displays his ability to craft catchy themes that the trio bring to life in a lively performance. More of the same is heard on “Beneath Wind’s Shadow” with Sigel’s bright trumpet complemented by Prester’s fluid piano as Schanzer adds percussive accents. The title track changes the mood and is a tight trio performance is built around an intriguing descending line that Pre- ster and Orta improvise over. Valois’ vocals adds an additional horn voice to “Toy Soldiers” as well the
flamenco inspired “Noches de Sevilla,” (percussionist Schanzer is excellent here) that will evoke Sketches of Spain for some,
Prester composed everything but the brief rendition of Coltrane’s Giant Steps (titled Bite Size Steps) that closes this recording. “Noches de Sevilla” may be the standout performance here, but “Dogtown” is a mar- velously engaging recording throughout.