Paquito D’Rivera

Cuban-born Paquito D’Rivera Composes Diplomacy and Art With His Sax

Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization – the winner of fourteen Grammy Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer.

Born in Havana, Cuba, he 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.

Paquito D’Rivera
Paquito D’Rivera. Image courtesy of Brenda Feliciano

D’Rivera co-founded the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and served as the band’s conductor for two years. In 1973, he was co-director of Irakere, a highly popular ensemble whose explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical, and traditional Cuban music had never before been heard. The band toured extensively and in 1979 was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Ensemble.

In 1981, while on tour in Spain, D’Rivera sought asylum in the U.S. embassy. Since then he has toured the world with his ensembles — the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band, the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet, and the Chamber Jazz Ensemble.

Paquito D’Rivera
Paquito D’Rivera. Image courtesy of Lane Pederson

His numerous recordings include more than 30 solo albums. In 1988, he was a founding member of the United Nation Orchestra, a 15-piece ensemble organized by Dizzy Gillespie to showcase the fusion of Latin and Caribbean influences with jazz. In 1991, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Carnegie Hall for his contributions to Latin music. That same year, as part of the band Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nation Orchestra, he was featured with James Moody, Slide Hampton, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Arturo Sandoval, Steve Turre, and others on the Grammy Award-winning recording, Live at the Royal Festival Hall.

He has appeared at, or written commissions for, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, the National Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra, Simón Bolivar Symphonic Orchestra, and Montreal’s Gerald Danovich Saxophone Quartet. He serves as artistic director of jazz programming at the New Jersey Chamber Music Society and is artistic director of the Festival Internacional de Jazz en el Tambo (Punta del Este, Uruguay) and the Duke Ellington Festival in Washington, DC. His memoir, My Sax Life, was released in 2005.

In addition to his performing career as an instrumentalist, Mr. D’Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer.  The prestigious music house, Boosey and Hawkes, is the exclusive publisher of  Mr. D’Rivera’s compositions.  Recent recognition of his compositional skills came with the award, in 2007,  of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and, in 2007-2008, an appointment as the Composer-In-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

He has become the consummate multinational ambassador, creating and promoting a cross-culture of music that moves effortlessly among jazz, Latin, and classical.

D’Rivera received the National Medal of Arts in 2005.

Selected Discography

Blowin’, Columbia, 1981
Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nation Orchestra, Live at the Royal Festival Hall, Enja, 1989
Portraits of Cuba, Chesky, 1996
Brazilian Dreams, MCG Jazz, 2001
Funk Tango, Sunnyside, 2006
Y0-Y0 Ma – Songs Of Joy & Peace, D’Rivera appears as Guest Artist in “Invitación al Danzón”, 2008
Tiempo Libre – Bach In Havana, D’Rivera appears as Guest Artist, 2009
Jazz – Clazz, 2009
Paquito Presents Alex Brown – Pianist, 2010
Terra Incognita – Woodwind Quintet, featuring Paquito D’Rivera composition “Kites” (two movements “Kites over Havana” and Wind Chimes”) and guest artist with Alex Brown, piano, 2010
Paquito D’Rivera – Tango Jazz, Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center, 2010
Paquito D’Rivera “Panamericana Suite”, 2010
Paquito D’Rivera & Berta Rojas “Dia Y Medio a Day and a Half”, 2012
Paquito D’Rivera & Trio Corrente “Song for Maura”, 2013
Paquito D’Rivera Sextet “Jazz Meets the Classics”, 2014
Paquito D’Rivera AND Quiteto Cimarron “Aires Tropicales”, 2015
Paquito D’Rivera Sextet Aand Armando Manzanero “Paquito & Manzanero, 2016
Paquito Presents The Vitral Saxaphone Quartet “Kites Over Havana”, 2017

Cuban-born Paquito D’Rivera Composes Diplomacy and Art With His Sax was last modified: April 4th, 2017 by Cuba Journal