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Dafnis Prieto. Photo by Scott McKissen.

Cuban percussionist, composer and educator Dafnis Prieto and his sextet will headline the 36th annual Carolina Jazz Festival Feb. 17-23 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Critics have said Prieto’s arrival from Cuba to the U.S. in 1999 was like “an asteroid hitting New York.” Within a short period of time, his revolutionary drumming techniques have had a powerful impact on the Latin and jazz music scene, both locally and internationally. As a composer, he melds modern jazz harmonies, Cuban clave rhythms, Latin and African influences and funk-inspired arrangements to create diverse works across a broad spectrum of moods.

The Dafnis Prieto Sextet will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at Carolina’s Memorial Hall. Visit for more information.

Prieto will be joined by artists-in-residence Claudio Roditi, trumpet, and Michael Dease, trombone, at the festival, which every year brings educational workshops, top-notch performances and concerts to UNC.

Roditi, a Brazilian trumpeter, arrived in the United States in 1970 and began studying at the Berklee College of Music. Currently he leads his own band and travels as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra. He earned a Grammy Award nomination in 1995 for his “Symphonic Bossa Nova,” and another in 2010 as Best Latin Jazz Album for “Brazilliance X 4.”

Dease, a native of Georgia, switched to trombone his senior year in high school after playing alto and tenor saxophones. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Julliard School. In 2008, he joined the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. He has also performed with artists including Natalie Cole, Wycliffe Gordon, Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis.

Many of the events are free. For events that require tickets, contact the Memorial Hall Box Office at (919) 843-3333. For detailed information, more events and videos of the artists, visit or contact the music department in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences at (919) 962-1039.

The Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz Festival, offered in conjunction with Jazz at Lincoln Center, will bring in high school bands from North Carolina and Virginia to the Frank Porter Graham Student Union for a day of performances and clinics on Feb. 21.

Major performances will be:

Feb. 17: Valentine’s Day Big Band Concert. Featuring jazz ensembles from UNC, Duke and N.C. Central universities. 4 p.m. Kenan Music Building, Room 1201. Tickets: $10 in advance or at the door.

Feb. 19: North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra celebrates its 20th anniversary season in concert with Roditi, trumpet; former “Good Morning America” host David Hartman, narrator. 7:30 p.m. Hill Hall auditorium. Tickets $15 (general admission), $10 (seniors) and $5 (students) in advance or at the door.

Feb. 20: UNC and N.C. Central Jazz faculty with guests Roditi and Dease, trombone. 7:30 p.m. Hill Hall auditorium. Free.

Feb. 22: UNC Jazz Combos with Roditi and Dease. 4 p.m. Kenan Music Building, Room 1201. Free.

Feb. 22: Jam session following Memorial Hall concert of Prieto. 10:30 p.m. West End Wine Bar, Franklin Street. Free.

Feb. 23: UNC Jazz Band with Roditi and Dease. 8 p.m. Kenan Music Building, Room 1201. Free.

Learn more about jazz studies at UNC:

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