Jazz Port Townsend Faculty Spotlight: Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito-D-rivera Centrum is excited to welcome back Paquito D’Rivera to Jazz Port Townsend in 2011. Paquito defies categorization; the winner of nine Grammy Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in jazz and his achievements as a classical composer.

We’re especially looking forward to the new composition dedicated to Paquito that NEA Jazz Master composer Bill Holman is writing, which will be premiered in Port Townsend during the festival in July, 2011.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Paquito D’Rivera performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony.  As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica 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.

He eventually went on to premier 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 America and Europe, winning a Grammy in the process.

His numerous recordings include more than 30 solo albums.  He was a founding member of the United Nation Orchestra, a 15.jpgece ensemble organized by Dizzy Gillespie to showcase the fusion of Latin and Caribbean influences with jazz.  D’Rivera continues to appear as guest conductor of that group which features such artists as James Moody, Slide Hampton, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Jon Faddis, Steve Turre, and others.  A Grammy was awarded the United Nation Orchestra in 1991, the same year D’Rivera received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Carnegie Hall for his contributions to Latin music.

Pacquito at Centrum in 2008 (Photo by Jim Levitt)
While Paquito D’Rivera’s discography reflects a dedication and enthusiasm for Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive.  They include solo performances with the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.  He has also performed with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rica National Symphony, the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, among others.

In 2005, he began touring with guitar duo Sergio and Odair Assad, in “Dances from the New World.” In his passion to bring Latin repertoire to greater prominence, Mr. D’Rivera has successfully created, championed and promoted all types of classical compositions, including his three chamber compositions recorded live in concert with distinguished cellist Yo-Yo Ma in September 2003.  The chamber work “Merengue,” from that live concert at Zankel Hall, was released by Sony Records and garnered Paquito his 7th Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition 2004.