August CD of the Month: Jazz meets the Classics

Aug 19, 2014

Paquito D’Rivera was a child prodigy on sax and clarinet, by the time he was a teen, he had already traveled to New York and Santo Domingo to perform as a featured soloist with an orchestra.  In his native Cuba he had played with the  National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba and became the youngest endorser of Selmer instruments. While visiting New York he promised himself that one day he would relocate to N.Y. and embark on a career as a jazz musician.  D’Rivera excelled at playing traditional Cuban music, jazz and classical.  In 1973 he was a founding member of the seminal Cuban fusion group Irakere that were the talk of the music community in New York after their sizzling performance at the 1980 Newport Jazz Festival. In 1981 while on tour with Irakere, Paquito sought asylum at a US Embassy and left his family behind in order to start anew and fulfill his ambition of being a jazz player in New York City. Since his arrival to the U.S. señor D’Rivera has been part of numerous concerts and recordings of note in jazz, classical and Latin music. “Paq-Man” was chosen to lead the Dizzy Gillespie Pan American Orchestra upon Mr. Gillespie’s demise; he has also led his own groups and brought the late Bebo Valdés out of retirement to enjoy a second legendary career. In 2001 the National Endowment of the Arts elected Paquito D’Rivera to the Jazz Masters Hall of Fame, the first foreign born artist to be so honored.

Paquito’s newest recording, on his own Paquito Records label is a perfect reflection of his musical expertise; mix jazz and classical then add Latin seasoning and voila! Jazz meets the Classics is the magnificent result. Paquito on soprano sax and clarinet leads an international cast of gifted musicians, trumpeter Diego Urcola hails from Argentina, Oscar Stagnaro on bass is from Perú, Mark Walker who plays drums is a Chicago native and 2 young, talented compatriots of D’Rivera round out the group, pianist Alex Brown and percussionist Arturo Stable. Three selections features guest Cuban pianist Pepe Rivero, another player with a bright future. Out of the 10 tracks on Jazz meets the Classics, 7 of them are based on compositions by classical masters: Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. This live recording took place at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center, Manhattan on June 14th, 2012, 10 days after Paquito’s 64th birthday. One of the evening’s highlights was composed by Pepe Rivero, a homage to the magnificent Cuban band leader-pianist and composer, Bebo Valdés, Pa’ Bebo, another stand out piece is Fantasia Impromptu which is based on a Chopin piece. From start to finish this is a majestic recording, my personal favorite is Mozart’s Adagio which I first heard Paquito play on the Grammy® winning Irakere album of 1980, a performance I thought could not be improved, man o’ man, was I wrong! For all of us who couldn’t be present on the night of this concert, Paquito D’ Rivera’s Jazz meets the Classics is the perfect substitute.