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Paquito D’Rivera: Jazz Meets the Classics

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Though well known as a marvelous soloist in Latin- and mainstream-jazz contexts, Paquito D’Rivera also has an extensive background in classical and traditional Cuban music. This new release celebrates his abilities in all these worlds. It features fine arrangements of classical and/or Afro-Cuban pieces that provide ideal opportunities to spotlight D’Rivera’s capabilities on clarinet and soprano saxophone, plus the skills of bandmates Diego Urcola (trumpet/trombone), Alex Brown (piano), Oscar Stagnaro (electric bass), Mark Walker (drums) and Arturo Stable (percussion). Another plus is the atmosphere and sensibility that come with it being recorded live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York. The rapport D’Rivera and his crew establish with the audience make this a more amiable, less stuffy session than it might have been if cut in a concert hall.

Chopin is referenced many times. Guest pianist Pepe Rivero’s arrangements of “Vals de la Media Hora” and “Nocturno en la Celda” are exciting, with D’Rivera’s soaring clarinet a highlight of the latter. Rivero’s “Pa Bebo” is a wonderful tribute to the late keyboard legend Bebo Valdés, while “E Minor Prelude,” arranged by Oriente López, brings Cuban fire to yet another Chopin piece. D’Rivera handles arranging duties on Ernesto Lecuona’s “Al Fin Te Vi,” while Michael Philip Mossman recasts part of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” as “Die Zauberclarinete,” and Brown’s magical piano work funnels Beethoven’s “Pathétique” piano concerto into “Beethoven Peru,” done in captivating waltz fashion. Some of D’Rivera’s most passionate playing comes on “Adagio,” from Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A Major.”

Ultimately, it’s not necessary to be an ardent fan of either classical or vintage Cuban music to appreciate the brilliance of Jazz Meets the Classics. D’Rivera and his band reaffirm the notion that great music is both timeless and universal.

Originally Published