Paquito D'Rivera
1948
Cuba, United States
Solo Artist
Beginnings
Born on the island of Cuba in 1948, Paquito D’Rivera began his career as a child prodigy, playing both the clarinet and the saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra He eventually went on to premier several works by notable Cuban composers with the same Orchestra.

A restless musical genius, Mr. D’Rivera formed and performed with various musical ensembles as a teenager and became one of the founding members of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which he subsequently conducted for two years and was also founding member and co-director of the innovative musical group Irakere, whose explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban music had never been heard before. The group toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several Grammy nominations and a Grammy.

Awards and Grammys
Most recently the Jazz Journalists Association awarded Mr. D’Rivera the Clarinet of the Year 2004 award, after receiving several nominations.

In May of 2003, he received a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Music, from the Berklee School of Music, adding this to his many numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award for his Contribution to Latin Music along with Dizzy Gillespie and Gato Barbieri. In addition to his awards and recognitions, including six Grammys, Paquito makes history for being the frist artist to win Latin Grammies in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories, for Stravinsky’s "Historia del Soldado" and "Bazilian Dreams" with New York Voices in 2003, the other historic recipient is Wynton Marsalis.

In 1996, he received a Grammy for his highly acclaimed recording, “Portraits of Cuba.” in 2000 for his “Tropicana Nights”, along with a nomination in the classical category for his “Music of Two Worlds”, featuring compositions by Schubert, Brahms, Guastavino, Villa Lobos, and by Mr. D’Rivera himself. In 2001 Grammy for his Quintet’s recording of “Live at the Blue Note.” He was also nominated in the Classical Crossover category for “The Clarinetist Vol. I.” In 2002, he won again as a guest artist on the recording of the Bebo Valdes Trio.

Classical Music and Ensembles
While Paquito’s discography includes over 30 solo albums in Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. They include solo performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, and with Brooklyn Philharmonic, the London Royal Symphony, and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also performed with the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rican National Symphony, and the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, among others. Paquito also keeps busy by frequently touring around the world with his ensembles: the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet, and in the 2005 begins touring with the guitar duo of Sergio and Odair Assad, in "Dances from the New World" In his quest to bring the Latin repertoire into the forefront of the classical arena, Paquito has successfully created, championed and promoted all types of classical compositions, including three chamber pieces composed by Paquito, recently recorded by Yo-Yo Ma and Paquito, live at Zankell Hall, Carnegie Hall, September, 2003.

Composer
In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Paquito has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. His works often reveals his versatility and widespread influences, which range from Afro-Cuban to the dance hall, to influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins.

In 2002, Paquito was commissioned by The National Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, to write a concerto “Gran Danzon” (The Bel Air Concerto) for the acclaimed flutist Marina Piccinini under the baton of Maestro Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

"Best that night was Paquito D’Rivera’s, ‘Gran Danzón’ (The Bel Air Concerto) in its world premiere. A spiky and imaginatively colored piece of Latin American orchestral writing…” (Joe Banno, Washington Post, February 11, 2002). “Gran Danzon” dazzling work... reveals D’Rivera’s sophistication as a composer."
- Washington Post, June 3, 2002.

Other premieres include pieces for the Turtle Island String Quartet, The Ying String Quartet, and the International Double Reed Congress 30th Anniversary in Canada. In 2002, The Library of Congress also commissioned Paquito for a Jazz Fantasy for Piano and Violin. Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned Paquito’s “Panamericana Suite” for their “As of Now” series in 2000. It premiered and was recorded for the National Public Radio.

"The centerpiece of the concert was La Jicotea a newly commissioned work composed by D’Rivera for the Turtle Island String Quartet. Well-crafted … the piece simmered with bits and pieces of Latin rhythms as the brief, but attractive, principal theme arched through flowing contrapuntal passages. As a showcase work, it will serve the TISQ well in future appearances. The most appealing segments of the program however were those in which D’Rivera performed with the quartet. the combination of clarinet and string quartet usually referred to as a Clarinet Quintet…"
- Los Angeles Times, 2002.

In 1999, the Kammer Orchester Schloss Werneck presented a series titled Paquito & Mozart, featuring his chamber compositions, alongside those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It culminated in Paquito’s piece entitled “Adagio”, which features elements of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.

"The orchestra as well as the soloist executed the work with perfect intonation and precise interpretation. At no time came the impression that two different musical worlds were colliding. The concert was an offering of excellence by virtue of the soloist and the orchestra, led by Ulf Klautsenitzer. With a focused tone and intonation, he effortlessly graced through the various registers unwavering."
– Echo Aschaffenburg Kultur, Montag, June 1999.

His “Rivers,” a Poetic Suite, premiered in 1998 for the 25th anniversary Opening Concert of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society. In 1994, The Aspen Wind Quintet also commissioned and premiered his suite “Aires Tropicales” at New York’s Frick Collection in 1994. “Aires” is now the mainstay of many other important wind ensembles such as the New York Wind Quintet and has been often recorded. He has also written and arranged other chamber works, which have also become the standard repertory of many international ensembles such as The Caracas Clarinet Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano and Quinteto D’Elas. The Gerald Danovich Saxophone Quartet from Montreal, after performing several of Paquito’s works, commissioned and then recorded his acclaimed “New York Suite” in 1989.

More Reviews
”Cuban reed player Paquito D' Rivera has a foot in the classical world and a foot in the jazz world—and each foot is atop its respective world. With the Milwaukee Symphony Pops, he brought the two together in a thrilling and astonishing survey of music by George Gershwin. He did not so much bend Gershwin to his will as reconsider him in various lights. D’Rivera, switching between clarinet and alto saxophone……… The whole substantial set from Porgy and Bess was a fantastical journey among idioms. The pinnacle of it was the famous love duet. “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”…..D’Rivera spinning circles around Porgy’s part. Note that as spectacularly virtuoso as D’Rivera was here, his part fit the whole beautifully. He’s no show –off; he balanced his part with the singer and the orchestra to make a beautiful whole. He has a concept that is bigger than his own voice, he hears the big picture..."
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Music Critic, April 21, 2002.

"The Second half became a Paquito D’Rivera show. Mr. D’Rivera, a gifted saxophonist and clarinetist has became the man to call if you want a concert-hall presentation of Pan-Latin music. All in rich Carnegie Hall-style arrangements... Mr. D’Rivera is a formidable musician, and in his clarinet playing, with lovely, clear low registers and never a squeaked high note. He was at his best…"
- New York Times, Saturday November 3, 2001.

Artist in Residence and Director
Mr. D’Rivera is an Artist in Residence at New Jersey Performing Arts Center and serves as member of the board of director of many important artistic organizations in the US that influence classical and jazz styles alike. For ten years, Mr. D’Rivera has been Artistic Director of the famous world-class Festival International de Jazz en el Tambo in Uruguay. Paquito’s guests have included such luminaries as McCoy Tyner, James Moody, Phil Woods and many more.

Other Talents
A gifted author, Mr. D’Rivera’s book, “My Sax Life” was published in Spain by the prestigious literary house, Seix Barral and contains a prologue by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. It has been acclaimed by the public and critics alike and is currently being translated into English to be published by Northwestern University Press. You can also listen to it in Mr. D’Rivera’s own voice by Recorded Books in Spanish available soon in the internet an in libraries alike. His novel “Oh, La Habana” is published in Spain by MTeditores, Barcelona.

In 1999, and in celebration of its 500 years’ history, the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares presented Paquito with a special award recognizing his contribution to the arts, his humane qualities, and his defense of rights and liberties of artists around the world.
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