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Paquito D’Rivera: Paquito & Manzanero

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Paquito & Manzanero is one of those tributes/collaborations that only seems long overdue once you’re listening to it; you may never have considered these two Latin music titans a natural match, but as the album’s 10 tracks play out, it makes perfect sense. Paquito D’Rivera, the Cuba-born clarinetist and alto/soprano saxophonist, has been one of the most celebrated figures in Latin jazz since the 1970s, an insatiably curious musician whose reach into various jazz forms, the classical world and multiple branches of Latin-rooted music has earned him innumerable accolades. Mexican singer and composer Armando Manzanero is one of the most successful composers of romantic Latin American songs of the modern era, having turned out a catalog of more than 400 such numbers during his six-decade career, many of which have become standards of what liner-notes writer Fernando Gonzalez calls the Great Latin-American Songbook.

Manzanero’s material, recorded in the past by such American artists as Tony Bennett, Bill Evans and Elvis Presley, as well as by countless Latin artists, has long proven malleable, and for D’Rivera, who thrives on exploration, that means taking it down to its foundations and rebuilding it in his own image. Manzanero’s involvement, both as vocalist on select tracks and as advisor, lends the exercise legitimacy, and the new arrangements, largely by pianist Alex Brown and trumpeter/trombonist Diego Urcola, feel definitive.

Opener “Amancer”-a melting pot of bolero, bebop and fierce rhythm-sets the tone for the pan-Latin/Caribbean tour that transpires. As interpreted by Evans, “Esta Tarde Vi Llover” (a.k.a. “Yesterday I Heard the Rain”) was doleful and introspective; here, Manzanero’s vocal is jubilant amidst an arrangement that itself borders on effervescent. “Mia,” one of several instrumentals, places bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Antonio Sanchez front-and-center, providing the swinging setup for some of the record’s most wondrous solos.

Originally Published