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 V.17 No.30 | July 24 - 30, 2008 

Spotlight

Paquito D’Rivera Heads Funk Tango Quintet

Ebullient Cubano brings Grammy-winning crew to second week of the 2008 New Mexico Jazz Festival

Lane Pederson

On virtuoso clarinetist/saxophonist and award-winning composer Paquito D’Rivera’s most recent Latin jazz recording, Funk Tango, his omnivorous musical appetite provides a wide-ranging feast for the earsfrom a bop-infused tango (Astor Piazolla’s “Revirado”) to a dreamy bolero (“Como un Bolero”) to a classically tinged tribute to Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona (“Contradanza”) to an original Latin take on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” Along the way, he quotes from Cole Porter’s “Another Opening, Another Show,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and the Mexican folksong “La Cucaracha,” among others.

Over his career, the Cuban-born D’Rivera, who first came to prominence mixing genres as a member of the Cuban fusion band Irakere, has embraced many genres to satisfy his appetite. His multiple Grammys demonstrate that he is equally at home with classical, Latin and jazz music.

The only kind of music that does not appeal to D’Rivera, he says, is “bad music. ... I prefer to keep on the side of tasty music, good music well done.”

This Sunday, the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet (with Diego Urcola, trumpet; Alex Brown, piano; Massimo Biolcati, bass; and Mark Walker, drums) will provide an appetizing concert at The Lensic in Santa Fe as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival.

Happy Confusion

A child prodigy who started playing the saxophone at 3, D’Rivera got his first taste of jazz at age 7 in his father’s saxophone shop in his native Cuba. His father, Tito, an accomplished classical player, dropped the needle onto the live recording of Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall performance, and what D’Rivera heard changed his life.

“I hear so much happiness and beautiful sounds,” says D’Rivera. “For me, that wasI don’t think I have enough words in either language, in Spanish or English, to describe what I heard when they played ‘Let’s Dance.’ [He hums the tune.] And I was so impressed, and said, ‘What the hell is that?’

“Then my father answered, ‘That is swing.’ He never called the music ‘jazz,’ for some reason. He called it ‘swing.’ He loved the word ‘swing.’ He said, ‘This is swing, and this is in the city of New York, and this is Carnegie Hall.’ And I understood ‘carne and frijol,’ ‘meat and beans!’ ” says D’Rivera, laughing.

His father also had an older 78-rpm Goodman recording of Mozart’s clarinet concerto, which he played back-to-back with the Carnegie Hall LP. “So for me it was a very happy confusion,” says D’Rivera, “because ever since, it’s just music. It’s my father’s and Benny’s fault.”

So moving from one genre to another has always been pretty easy. “I have, for example, an old Bel Air ’57,” he says. “I also have a 1973 Volkswagen [stick shift]. It’s a different feeling. You want to do an adjustment when you drive one car or the other. So it’s the same thing.”

Exuberance

Absorbing classical and traditional Cuban music in his formal training, D’Rivera picked up his education in modern jazz, in part, via the radio and shared recordings. He recalls secretly listening to “The Jazz Hour” on the Voice of America, hosted by “a very, very dear man,” Willis Conover, “who kept us informed about what was happening [in the United States] about modern jazz.”

In Cuba, D’Rivera found only limited opportunities to play jazz, which the Castro regime frowned on. Since defecting to Spain in 1980, however, D’Rivera has taken the opportunity to compose and play whatever he wishes, with whomever he wantsfrom trumpeter Claudio Roditi to cellist Yo-Yo Maat a staggering pace.

Funk Tango marks a new accomplishment, as it is his first self-produced project. “I am very happy with my quintet,” he says. He’s apparently not alone, as the CD won the 2007 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.

All of his work is informed by a passionate exuberance, even in the smallest detailssay, the stunningly abrupt upward exit from his clarinet solo on Funk Tango’s “What About That!” That cheerful exuberance, perhaps D’Rivera’s most fundamental gift, celebrates every fleeting moment with commanding artistry.

New Mexico Jazz Festival Schedule, Week Two

The third annual New Mexico Jazz Festival continues through July 28. The rest of the second week looks like this:


Thursday, July 24

Kenny Garrett Quartet
Outpost Performance Space, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, July 25

New Mexico Jazz Workshop presents Women’s VoicesCharmed, Dianna Hughes, Patti Littlefield, Kari Simmons, Hillary Smith
Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Habib Koité and Bamada
The Lensic, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 26

New Mexico Jazz Workshop presents Women’s VoicesThe Buckarettes, Jenny Marlow, Busy McCarroll, Madi Sato, Susan Clark
Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Cassandra Wilson
The Lensic, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 27

A. B. Spellman and Paquito D’Rivera: Meet the Artist
The Lensic, 4:30 p.m.
Paquito D’Rivera’s Funk Tango Quintet
The Lensic, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 28

A. B. Spellman: Reading
The Lensic, 2 p.m.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
The Lensic, 7:30 p.m.


For complete information, visit newmexicojazzfestival.org. For events at the Outpost in Albuquerque and The Lensic in Santa Fe, tickets are available at TicketsSantaFe.org, the Outpost (268-0044) and The Lensic (505-988-1234). For New Mexico Jazz Workshop events at the Albuquerque Museum, call 255-9798. Both A. B. Spellman events are free.

 
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