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Now that the United States is experiencing a renaissance in awareness of the richness of Cuban music (but for who knows how long?), it's time to reappraise and re-appreciate one of the first of the Baby Boomer generation's Cuban jazz musicians. Paquito D'Rivera brought that country's music directly to the heart of jazz countrythat heart being New York City. Even though Andy Garcia is signed to portray Arturo Sandoval in a biographical movie, let us not forget that it was Paquito D'Rivera who first defected, putting a bag full of sticks and stone on the plane in Spain instead of his belongings. His conscience tried by what he witnessed as the Cuban government's abuse of the Mariel boat people, D'Rivera left behind wife and family to take a chance on freedom.
Always acknowledged as a premier saxophonist and clarinetist, D'Rivera has gone about fusing Cuban music with jazz and classical for an exhilarating blend that audiences can't resist.
There is no better evidence of the infectiousness of D'Rivera's music than "Live At The Blue Note".
Jumping full-force out of the chute with an extroverted version of the Brazilian tune, "Curumim", D'Rivera's regular quintet reaches out to the audience with a joyousness that obviously provided what they came to hear. By the time D'Rivera introduces the next number, the audience is audibly enjoying themselves, laughing to D'Rivera's politically tinged but good-natured jokes.
D'Rivera's intent was to take his audience "on a tour of South America"which he does. Referring to Argentina on "Buenos Aires", Brazil on "Curumim" and his homeland on "Centro Havana", D'Rivera not only spreads the joy of the music, but also points out through musical demonstration the differences in rhythm and harmony. The composer of "Centro Havana", flutist Oriente Lopez, joined the band on the number that night in August, 1999. So, D'Rivera's closing number possessed a personal meaning.
The musicians in D'Rivera's group deserve special attention as well, all of whom (his "illegal aliens") are as comfortable in a jazz groove as they are in transcending the music through Latin percussion. Having created his own mini-United Nations Orchestra, the members of the quintet hail from Argentina, Peru, Cuba and the exotic locale of Chicago.
Perhaps because D'Rivera excels in front of a live audience, "Live At The Blue Note" presents him in an energized environment that fully appreciated his music.
Curumim, El Cura, Buenos Aires, Tobago, Como Un Bolero, Centro Havana, Estamos Ai
Paquito D'Rivera, alto and soprano sax, clarinet; Diego Urcola, trumpet; Oriente Lopez, flute; Dario Eskenazi, piano; Oscar Stagnaro, bass; Mark Walker, drums; Pernell Saturnino, percussion
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.