Paquito D'Rivera at Mount Vernon Country Club

Geoff Anderson By

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Paquito D'Rivera
Mount Vernon Country Club
Golden, Colorado
February 27, 2015

Jazz. Pass it on.

That was a big part of what happened Friday night at the Mount Vernon Country Club in the foothills west of Denver. National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master and multiple Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera led an ensemble of primarily college students in an evening of Latin jazz. The groove was solid, the song selection impeccable and the learning experience priceless.

The jazz program at the University of Colorado at Boulder was the specific beneficiary of D'Rivera's visit. The student leader of the band was pianist Walter Gorra who doubles on civil engineering. In between the students and the master were a couple of well-known professional Denver musicians, vibes man Greg Harris and percussionist Manuel Lopez. Rounding out the band were Josh Reed on trumpet; Greg Wahl, tenor sax; BK Kahn, drums; and Mike Facey, bass.

D'Rivera acted as Master of Ceremonies throughout the evening, often speaking of his love for Brazilian music when he introduced tunes he wrote in the Brazilian style. A particular highlight of the set was another D'Rivera original called "Who's Smoking?" which was a tribute to James Moody. That one featured tight, intricate playing by the front line which sounded like a group that had been playing the tune for years rather than mere days. The band also played a Gorra original called "Jazongo" which won the 2014 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award. The set list was comprised mainly of Latin Jazz of various varieties, but there was room for some straight ahead jazz including Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia."

D'Rivera led by example, not only with his relaxed and humorous stage banter, but especially with his alto sax and clarinet playing. His sax tone was delicious, strong and pure and highly confident. His solos were consistently intricate and inventive. Harris also laid down a couple memorable solos where his mallets nearly became invisible because of their speed over the vibes. The other band members all had solo slots and all demonstrated why they were in this band playing with a master. The playing all around had the sound of jazz veterans.

The concert was also a fund raiser for a group called Damas de Blanco or Ladies in White which consists of women whose husbands, fathers and brothers are held as political prisoners in Cuba. D'Rivera defected from Cuba in 1981 and Friday's concert was also meant to raise awareness of the repression that still exists on the island.

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