D’Rivera calls his “favorite” core grouping a “quintet?” with a question mark because of his preference for a flexible five-piece, one that can contract to a duo or expand to a larger ensemble. His basic five here includes himself on alto and clarinet, Argentine trumpeter/valve trombonist Diego Urcola, Israeli pianist Alon Yavnai, Peruvian bassist Oscar Stagnaro and Chicago drummer Mark Walker, augmented at times by pianists Edward Simon and Fernando Otero, bandoneon master Hector del Curto, and percussionists Pernell Saturnino and Pablo Stagnaro.
This CD, D’Rivera’s first self-produced, should be considered one of the best of 2007—the quality of the playing, compositions and arrangements are all of the highest order. Urcola’s beautiful ballad “Final Waltz,” Stagnaro’s mystical Afro-Cuban excursion “Mariela’s Dream,” D’Rivera’s mournful “Como un Bolero,” Otero’s intense “Milonga 10,” Yavnai’s tango/hard-bop “Funk Tango,” Walker’s Brazilian-rhythm’d “What About That!,” Simon’s sinuous “Pere,” and last but not least, D’Rivera’s “Contradanza,” his sensational duet on clarinet with pianist Yavnai, in sum leave the listener satiated but wanting still more. And more comes with an exceptional version of Piazzolla’s “Revirado,” a cleverly Latinized “Giant Steps,” and “La Yumba—Caravan,” Juan Tizol’s classic transformed brilliantly into an amalgam of tango and bop influences.
D’Rivera is on fire throughout on both his instruments. Urcola impresses in a Miles-flavored style on trumpet as well as in his debut on valve trombone. Yavnai’s versatility, passion and invention mark him a talent to watch. As for all the other contributors, their flawless musicianship helps make this great recording the total success that it is.