Rapsodya

Robert Prester

Prester releases a long-awaited compilation of solo piano classical selections, in a carefully curated studio concert format, including the recording debut of his original sonata for piano.

Those who think they know the work of composer-pianist Robert Prester from his four jazz albums – most recently, the nimble and playful “Dogtown” – are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the introduction to his classical side that you hold in your hands. And if you are approaching this recording with an awareness of the Beethoven, Debussy, Bach and Chopin pieces he has selected, you will surely enjoy his authoritative approach and articulately executed musical choices  he brings to the works of these masters.       This exciting classical/jazz synthesis is the culmination of Prester’s lifelong relationship with the piano. Precocious young Robert, having started piano studies at 3,  was performing Bach concert pieces from the age of 8, developing his technique and his taste for the classics.  After a fortuitous clerical “mistake”, being placed in a jazz composition course rather than classical, Robert unexpectedly discovered a new medium for his talent, and began concentrating his performance and composition efforts on his own distinctive Latin-tinged jazz sound. But by 2000, in part because he began playing two-piano concerts with his accomplished mother Marcia, Prester’s attention and career returned to the classics.         By 2005, he began work on what would become his Sonata in F minor, the major piece that leads off this disc. This sonata, with it’s mixed classic and modern sound, fits perfectly in this eclectic recorded concert. I feel certain that you will agree.     Prester’s sonata is not improvised, but his use of jazz harmonies suggest a spontaneity with which jazz fans will feel at home. Within traditional sonata structure, he introduces harmonics that are anything but traditional. Instead of composing with visual images in mind, Prester writes with an emotional through line. Listen for the way each movement has a distinct emotional flavor, from romantic and bittersweet to a chromatic upheaval.     You could say that Prester’s own approach to his sonata has been evolving in the 11 years since he copyrighted the piece, but his relationship with many of the other selections on this recording go back much further. Like the Chopin ballade, which he recalls first performing at music camp while he was in the 11th grade. And then there’s the Beethoven sonata, a relatively recent undertaking for Prester, because as he puts it, “I think every concert needs a Beethoven piece.”     It is likely that this will be your first exposure to Prester’s own sonata, but his aim here is to perform all of the selected works as if they are being heard for the first time. So sit back, turn your living room into a concert hall and enjoy Rapsodya.

Hap Erstein The Palm Beach Post Palm Beach ArtsPaper WJNO Radio

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Dogtown

Robert Prester

Prester's most recent CD of original jazz after 'Trillium', 'Triceratops', and 'She Devil'.

The singular sound you’ll hear on Robert Prester’s ‘Dogtown’ is the delightful result of a lifetime’s devotion to the piano and to creative composition, years on the bandstand in a variety of contexts, and the coming together of just the right musicians to present his music. It’s the 4th recording as a leader by this multi-faceted and well-traveled artist, his first since landing in South Florida several years ago, and if this is your introduction to his work, you’re in for a treat.   A gifted pianist from an early age, Prester studied classical piano as a youngster at the Manhattan School of Music, where he would eventually earn a graduate degree in Jazz/Commercial Music, and that classical training is evident in the remarkable fluency and touch he brings to the piano. His love of jazz happened ‘almost by accident’ in his mid-teens, enrolling in a composition class with a jazz emphasis, and a new world opened up. Private study with Harold Danko and collaborations with drummer Roland Vazquez and guitarist Dean Brown provided early inspiration, and in 1988 his first album, Trillium, was released on the Island Records Antilles label.  That recording of original music for a 10-piece ensemble was followed by two more releases, incorporating elements ranging from Latin to funk and fusion, bop to gospel – a confluence of styles that have always added up to a highly original sound.   The trio at the heart of this session, with Nicky Orta and Ettienne Fuentes, is locked in tight and can turn on a dime. Both Nicky and Ettienne are much in demand on the South Florida scene, and contribute notable solos. Dave Schanzer adds the perfect percussive spice, as well as his masterful engineering, to the project.  The musical palette broadens in a delightful way with the wordless vocals of Terezinha Valois and Jonathan Sigel’s trumpet, often in unison and performing some challenging lines with real finesse.  Terezinha and Jonathan both worked in the band of guitarist Phill Fest along with Prester.  You’ll find his great piano work, and two originals, on the recent ‘Projeto B.F.C.' – the Brazil-Florida Connection – recently released by Phill’s group.   Classical music continues to be part of the mix for Prester, who performs with the Cameo Chamber Players, in solo piano concerts, and in duet recitals with his mother (and first piano teacher). And that background is apparent in his intriguingly original writing as well as his playing – note the opening Toy Soldiers, with a nod to Schumann’s Soldier’s March, and the beautiful solo intro to Realm of Possibility as just two examples – and throughout, you’ll hear a sophisticated and seamless blend of composed and improvised elements far different from the typical head-solo-head jazz pattern. The Latin rhythms that have always been a part of Prester’s sound turn overtly flamenco on the disc’s penultimate track; Noches de Sevilla draws on memories of living for a time above a flamenco studio in Spain years ago. And the trio goes out swinging, on a 'samba-fied' Coltrane classic.  Prester says it’s been 'a lifelong challenge to come at Giant Steps from different angles.'   If you’re like me, you’ll find your own favorite moments each time you revisit ‘Dogtown.' As a composer and a pianist, Robert Prester continues to create a sound all his own, and this disc should be a giant step toward wider recognition of his talents.

Bob Seymour ‘All Night Jazz’ WUSF, Tampa  

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Triceratops

Robert Prester

The second CD of Rob Prester original jazz music. An extensive and impressive production featuring more of Rob’s unique compositions- Some R&B, funk, fusion, ballads, and latin. Recorded with all-star personel including Dave Mann and Dean Brown

This is a boutique collection of Robert Prester originals, all written in the period shortly after the release of Prester's first recording, "Trillium". Having recorded "Trillium" live to digital 2-track, and enjoying the live energy of that recording process, he wanted to delve into a full production approach to his second recording, "Triceratops". Much attention was paid to detail in the selection of synthesizer sounds, each custom tailored to produce an effect and mood for the particular composition it was used in. For some of the tunes, live drums triggered midi drum sounds to enhance specific components of the drum set while maintaining the energy and feel of the live playing. The title track, "Triceratops", exemplifies Prester's production intentions for this compilation and merges the industrial and metallic sounds of urban living with organic overtones of the prehistoric world.

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She Devil

Robert Prester

This collection of Rob’s jazz compositions was recorded in his favorite and most exciting instrumental format- jazz trio. Recorded in Honolulu HI, “She Devil” features Rob’s virtuoso piano work, along with drummer Noel Okimoto and bassist Steve Jones,

"She Devil" is my 3rd CD recording project, but my first recording as a trio, allowing me more freedom as soloist, and for the ensemble. The collective musical spontaneity and interaction that this promotes, is the reason trio playing has become a favorite instrumentation for me.

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