Program Books/Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito D’Rivera

clarinet and alto saxophone

NEA Jazz Master Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization. The winner of 14 combined Grammy and Latin Grammy awards, his celebrated musical career reflects a dedication to jazz, bebop, and Latin music, as well as his impressive contributions to classical music. In his passion to bring Latin repertoire to greater prominence, D’Rivera has successfully created and championed all types of classical compositions, including symphonies and chamber music written and premiered with distinguished cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 2003 and, most recently, The Journey, commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2023. (The work will have its premiere in Mexico this June.) The chamber work Merengue from a live concert at Carnegie Hall earned D’Rivera his seventh Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in 2004.

D’Rivera’s “Reunion” band with his childhood friend Chucho Valdes continues to appear at festivals throughout in 2023, as does his quintet.

Recognition for D’Rivera’s achievements as a composer include a 2007 Gug­genheim Fellowship, a 2007–08 appoint­­ment as Composer in Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a Latin Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 2011 for his Panamericana Suite, a National Medal of the Arts, and the 2017 Bogomolny National Service Award from Chamber Music America in recognition of D’Rivera’s efforts to inspire the next generation of musicians. D’Rivera also holds honorary doctorates from many institutions, including Berklee College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, University of Pennsylvania, the City University of New York (CUNY), and the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Spain.

D’Rivera’s works often reveal his widespread and eclectic musical interests, which range from Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies—including influences encountered during his many travels—back to his classical origins. D’Rivera’s Conversations with Cachao, a concerto for double bass and clarinet/saxophone, pays tribute to Cuba’s legendary bass player, Israel “Cachao” Lopez. Inspiration for The Cape Cod Files (2009) comes from such disparate sources as Benny Goodman’s introduction to the Eubie Blake popular song “Memories of You,” Argentine milonga, improvisations on the music of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, and North American boogie-woogie.

Recent compositions include The Journey, a double concerto for clarinet and cello that D’Rivera premiered with Yo-Yo-Ma and the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap; Dali in the Tropics for horn, jazz trio, and orchestra, performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, conductor Xian Zhang, and soloist Chris Komer; Concerto Venezolano for trumpet player Pacho Flores, who has performed the work with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Orquestra de Valencia, the San Diego Symphony, and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria; Afro Tales for clarinet and cello, premiered at Michigan State University College of Music; and Fantasías Barcelónicas for clarinet quartet, premiered by the Barcelona Clarinet Players, then recorded on the album Fantasías Barcelónicas—Tribute to Paquito alongside other D’Rivera ensemble works.

D’Rivera is the author of four books: Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from a Life in Music; Ser o no ser, esa es la jodienda!; Oh La Habana; and My Sax Life. During the pandemic, D’Rivera produced a series of YouTube videos called The Paq-Man’s Korner, through which he shared insights about his recordings, premiered chamber music, interviewed fellow artists, and gave master classes.