Paquito D'Rivera life and biography

Paquito D'Rivera picture, image, poster

Paquito D'Rivera biography

Date of birth : 1948-06-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Havana, Cuba
Nationality : Cuban
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2023-10-09
Credited as : Musician, soprano-saxophonist, Chamber Jazz Ensemble, Tito D'Rivera, Grammy Awards

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Paquito D'Rivera: A Musical Odyssey from Havana to the World

Paquito D'Rivera, renowned Cuban alto saxophonist, clarinetist, and soprano saxophonist, embarked on an extraordinary musical journey that transcended boundaries. Born with an innate talent, his father, Tito D'Rivera, a distinguished classical saxophonist and conductor, nurtured his musical growth from a young age. Little did they know that young Paquito would become a musical sensation.

Paquito's early years were marked by an exceptional aptitude for music. By the age of six, he was already a professional musician, defying expectations and captivating audiences with his prodigious talent. His proficiency spanned classical music and jazz, reflecting his diverse influences and versatile abilities.

A Journey of Mastery. A Rising Star.

As a child, Paquito D'Rivera delved into music theory and the saxophone under the watchful eye of his father. His musical education was not limited to a single genre, as his father instilled in him a deep appreciation for both classical and jazz music. By age six, he made history by playing in his first concert, performing a piece composed by his father. His connection with music was profound and unwavering.

At ten, Paquito D'Rivera played with the National Theater Orchestra of Havana in 1958, a remarkable achievement for such a young talent. Initially trained on the soprano saxophone, he soon discovered a preference for the alto saxophone, self-taught with the aid of a book. Formal training in 1960, at age 12, saw him enroll in the Havana Conservatory of Music, where he not only honed his skills on the clarinet but also delved into music composition.

A Prolific Teenager

By the age of 19, Paquito D'Rivera was already a virtuoso on both the clarinet and saxophone. He dazzled audiences as a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra and performed with various ensembles, including the Cuban Army Band. During this time, he co-founded the Orchestra Cubana de Musica Moderna with pianist Chu Chu Valdez, even serving as its conductor for two years.

The Birth of Irakere

In 1973, Paquito D'Rivera, along with several members of the Orchestra Cubana de Musica Moderna and additional musicians, co-founded Irakere. This groundbreaking musical group melded jazz, rock, classical, and traditional Cuban music, creating a unique and captivating sound. Irakere gained international recognition, playing at jazz festivals worldwide and making history as the first Cuban group to sign with an American record label in the post-revolution era. Their eponymous debut album earned a Grammy Award in 1979, and the group participated in the historic Havana Jam music festival.

Defection and New Beginnings

Paquito D'Rivera's taste of international opportunities fueled his desire for artistic freedom. In 1981, while on tour in Spain, he made the courageous decision to defect from Cuba and seek political asylum with the U.S. Embassy. Settling in the United States, he collaborated with jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie, David Amram, and Mario Bauza, recording his debut solo album, "Paquito Blowin'," in 1981. His success in his adopted country was catapulted by features in Time magazine, PBS, and CBS Sunday Morning.

The Versatile Maestro

Throughout the 1980s and beyond, Paquito D'Rivera continued to shine. He co-founded the United Nations Orchestra with Dizzy Gillespie in 1988, a remarkable 15-piece ensemble. Paquito's passion for jazz and classical music found expression in his work with the Paquito D'Rivera Big Band and the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet. He also explored diverse musical genres, such as calypso and salsa, with groups like Triangulo and the Caribbean Jazz Project. Paquito composed music for various ensembles and achieved recognition both as a composer and performer.

A Legacy of Music

Paquito D'Rivera's career spanned decades, earning him acclaim worldwide. He garnered his fifth and sixth Grammy Awards in 2003 for the jazz album "Brazilian Dreams" and the classical album "Historia del Soldado." His compositions, including "Gran Danzon" and "Panamericana Suite," showcased his mastery in blending jazz and classical elements. He also authored the memoir "Mi Vida Saxual" (My Sax Life), offering insights into his remarkable journey.

Paquito D'Rivera's influence extended beyond performance and composition. He served as an artist in residence, artistic director for jazz programming, and directed Uruguay's Festival International de Jazz en el Tambo. His commitment to making jazz an integral part of classical music earned him recognition and admiration.

A Voice Against Injustice

In 2005, Paquito D'Rivera spoke out against the use of Che Guevara's image, citing Guevara's role in executing counter-revolutionaries in Cuba, including his own cousin. His principled stance reflected his dedication to justice and freedom.

Continuing the Legacy

With a busy touring schedule, collaborations with several ensembles around the world, and a commitment to music education, Paquito D'Rivera's impact endures. His passion for jazz and classical music continues to resonate globally, enriching the world of music and inspiring future generations.

Selected discography for Paquito D'Rivera:

-Irakere CBS, 1978.
-Havana Jam CBS, 1979.
-Blowin' CBS, 1981.
-Mariel CBS, 1982.
-Live at the Keystone Korner CBS, 1983.
-Why Not! CBS, 1984.
-Explosion CBS, 1985.
-(Contributor) Le Quatuor de Saxophones (Gerald Danovitch Saxophone Quartet), CBC, 1987.
-Celebration CBS, 1988.
-Return to Ipanema Town Cryer, 1989.
-Tico, Tico Chesky, 1989.
-(Contributor) Autumn Leaves--Severi Comes (Severi Pyysalo), Selecta, 1989.
-(Contributor) Live at Royal Festival Hall (Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nations Orchestra), Mesa/Blue Moon, 1990.
-Who's Smoking?! Candid, 1990.
-(Contributor) Live at Birdland (Claudio Roditi), Candid, 1990.
-Reunion Messidor, 1991.
-Havana Cafe Chesky, 1992.
-(Contributor) La Habana-Rio Conexión Messidor, 1992.
-Paquito D'Rivera Presents 40 Years of Cuban Jam Sessions Messidor, 1993.
-A Night in Englewood Messidor, 1993.
-Achango's Dance (Caribbean Jazz Project), Heads Up International, 1995.
-Portraits of Cuba Chesky, 1996.
-(Contributor) Cuban Jazz RMM, 1996.
-(Contributor) Island Stories (Caribbean Jazz Project), Heads Up International, 1997.
-Paquito D'Rivera: Chamber Music from the South Mix House, 1997.
-Paquito D'Rivera and the United Nations Orchestra Live at MCG Blue Jackel, 1997.
-(Contributor) For Winds (Robert Baksa), Newport Classic, 1997.
-100 Years of Latin Love Songs Heads Up International, 1998.
-Tropicana Nights Chesky, 1999.
-Cubarama Termidor Musikverlag, 1999.
-Habanera Enja, 1999.
-Paquito D'Rivera Quintet Live at the Blue Note Half Note, 2000.
-(Contributor) Danzon (Turtle Island String Quartet), Koch International, 2001.
-(Contributor) The Commission Project (American Saxophone Quartet with Paquito D'Rivera), Sons of Sound, 2002.
-The Best of Paquito D'Rivera Legacy/Sony, 2002.
-The Clarinetist Universal, 2002.
-Brazilian Dreams Manchester Craftmen's Guild, 2002.
-Historia del Soldado Karonte, 2002.
-Big Band Time Timba, 2002.

Honors and award received by Cuban musician Paquito D'Rivera:

2003: Doctorate Honoris Causa in Music, Berklee College of Music
2004: Clarinet of the Year Award, Jazz Journalists Association
2005: NEA Jazz Masters
2005: National Medal of Arts
2006: Clarinet of the Year, Jazz Journalists Association
2007: Composer in Residence, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
2007: Fellowship Award for Music Composition, Guggenheim Foundation
2007: Living Jazz Legend Award, The Kennedy Center and The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Series for Artistic Excellence
2008: President's Award, International Association for Jazz Educators
2012: Honorary Doctoral Degree, State University of New York at Old Westbury

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