Victor Prieto was born in the town of Ourense in Galicia, an ancient Celtic homeland in Spain. But he grew up partially in Venezuela and has lived in New York for the past 20 years. His mother insisted that he learn to play the accordion to connect him to his Galician roots, and he has gone on to become one of the leading players in the world. On The Three Voices he revels in the jazz possibilities of the instrument, while often referring back to his musical roots but moving in directions that are uniquely his own. It’s an exciting and refreshing album.
His core group on this outing is a basic jazz rhythm section, Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums. He’s joined on several numbers by Arturo O’Farrill on piano and on many by John Ellis on saxophones. But it’s not strictly a jazz album, and definitely not strictly a Galician accordion album.
“My music is never one thing. It’s a mix of cultures, starting from the Galician roots. It’s the music I hear in my head,” he says.
The music hews most closely to its Galician roots on the muineira he created for Galician piper Cristina Pato, called coincidentally “Muiñeira for Cristina.” It’s a wildly modern take on this popular accordion-driven dance form from Galicia that often features the gaita bagpipes. You can see a lovely example of the dance here, but Prieto’s version takes it to places that wouldn’t be recognized by many of his countrypeople.
Prieto also delves into the South American period of his childhood with a nice tango from the repertoire of Astor Piazzolla, “Michelangelo 70.” And he goes furthest afield with two songs (“The Vibration” and the title track) on which he demonstrates his mastery of overtone singing, which is quite interesting given his very high tenor voice, which may even be in the counter-tenor range.
Latin American and other international influence are obvious. The melodic “Rosa” flirts with musette, the iconic French cafe style of play. “Recuerdos,” a melancholy duet with bassist Roeder, is an homage to his years in Venezuela. And the beautifully emotive “Papa Pin” is a remembrance of his grandfather. “Six Note Samba” throws funk into the mix of this modern glance toward Brazil. Here’s a lovely and lengthy live rendition, with lots of showy work from drummer Vince Cherico and Cheek on soprano.
But as I said in the main this is a jazz album — jazz of various types, starting out of the gate with the (nearly) pure hard bop of “Chatting With Chris,” a dialog with saxophonist Chris Cheek, a frequent collaborator. My favorites, other than that wild ride with Cristina Pato, are “Games” and “Games 2.” The former is another more or less straight-ahead piece with lots of piano, while the latter goes full funk, New York Style. “Six Note Samba” obviously has plenty of jazz soloing in it. The final track “Two Doors” is a bit more avant, mixing in some prog and fusion techniques and styles in dialog with the sax; through the mid-section of this six-minute piece, the bass, drums, sax and accordion all seem to be playing at different time signatures.
The irrepressible Prieto has made a wonderfully entertaining CD in The Three Voices. It hits a lot of compass points, but never loses its way. Bravo for jazz accordion!