We are pleased to welcome NEA Jazz Master Paquito D’Rivera to Jazz Port Townsend in 2008. Born in Cuba, the eight-time Grammy Award-winning clarinetist and saxophonist began his career as a teen prodigy, creating various original and ground-breaking musical ensembles.
As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra.
D’Rivera eventually went on to premiere several works by notable Cuban composers with the same orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical, and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout Europe and the Americas.
Paquito D’Rivera’s first recognition as a solo artist by the Grammy Recording Academy came in 1996 with the highly acclaimed recording Portraits of Cuba. Since then, D’Rivera has received numerous recognitions as an artist and composer.
Additionally, D’Rivera was named one of the 2005 NEA Jazz Masters and most recently, he was honored in March 2007 with the Living Jazz Legend Award in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
He also won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition 2004 for his “Merengue” as performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
In both 2004 and 2006, the Jazz Journalists Association honored D’Rivera as the Clarinetist of the Year. The National Hispanic Academy of Media Arts and Sciences recently paid tribute to him with their Annual Achievement in Music Award for his "outstanding body of work" along with Dizzy Gillespie and Gato Barbieri.
In addition to his awards and recognitions, Paquito D’Rivera is the first artist to win Latin Grammys in both the Classical and Latin Jazz categories (2003), for "Historia del Soldado" and "Brazilian Dreams with the New York Voices."
D’Rivera tours worldwide with his ensembles: the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band, and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet.
In his passion to bring Latin repertoire to greater prominence, D’Rivera has successfully created, championed, and promoted all types of classical compositions, including his three chamber compositions recorded live in concert with Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall in September, 2003.
In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Paquito D’Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. His works often reveal his widespread and eclectic musical interests, ranging from Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies, including influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins. Recognition of his significant compositional skills came in 2007 with the award of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and the 2007-2008 appointment as Composer-In-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.