Wapango, Paquito D'Rivera

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Wapango, Paquito D'Rivera
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Review

Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, October 13, 2001
Saxophone quartet tunes in world of sound
Garaud MacTaggart

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet is a wonderful ensemble and a Western New York treasure. The group seems to be at home with more-adventurous material, but it plays arrangements of George Gershwin and Eubie Blake tunes with equal aplomb. That is probably why its concert series has become a mini-event over the last 24 years and why its concert Friday evening was attended by a number of repeat "customers."

Music from the New World could have been the theme, but calling the program a "celebration of music from North and South America: got the point across, too.

Works by American composers David Kechley, Leopold Godowsky III, Stephen Parisi and William Grant Still were matched by Cuban-American jazz master Paquito D'Rivera, arrangements of some Argentine tangos by Alejandro Rutty and "Four for Tango," a work by Astor Piazzolla originally commissioned by the Kronos Quartet.

Kechley, who was in the audience, wrote "Stepping Out" in 1989 for the Saskatoon Saxophone Quartet, but since then, it has entered the repertoire of a fairly substantial number of like-minded groups. In fact, Susan Fancher, the soprano sax player for the Amherst quartet, had played it when she was a member of the Vienna Saxophone Quartet. The work, a four-movement piece, seems to pay homage to minimalists one minute and the old tradition of singing "rounds" the next. The whole process was surprisingly fascinating.

Godowsky also was in the house, and his "Cafeteria Suite" was derived from the incidental music he wrote for a film based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer short story "The Cafeteria." The solid, well-constructed six-movement suite has its own charms, but not necessarily one that would send you home whistling the main theme.

Claude Voirpy's arrangement of Piazzolla's "Four for Tango" was the most vibrant, passionate sounding work in the first half of the concert and provided a hint of things to come later in the evening. Stephen Rosenthal, the quartet's tenor player, arranged Still's "Danzas de Panama," a work that seemed to contain snippets of popular melodies, the kind of thing that teases the brain with its familiarity without revealing its name.

Rutty, a former doctoral student in the University at Buffalo composition program, hails from Argentina and arranged some tangos for the quartet and singer Lorena Guillen, another Argentine. Both "Nostalagias" and "Garufa" - a term roughly translated as "Party Boy" - were sung with the kind of conviction for which Guillen has become known in this material. The quartet was right on the money too, and so were the arrangements. The microphone amplification, however, was horribly off, which made mush out of Guillen's syllables.

In many ways, the most fun pieces were the ones saved for the back end of the program. D'Rivera's "Wapango" has shown up in arrangements for string quartet and woodwind quintet in addition to the saxophone quartet version played by the Amherst group. But, as the music publisher for the work says, it remains "an exciting and lively Latin dance with a syncopated bass line - perfect for recitals, jobs or educational demos!"

The final composition of the evening - not counting the reprise of "Garufa" that was the encore - was Parisi's clever "Nina's Samba," a work that seemed to weave touches of rhythm and blues with post-bop mannerisms throughout its structure but in a way that avoided triteness even as it gave sonic hints about an ensuing party.

Stepping Out (1989), David Kechley
Cafeteria Suite, Leopold Godowsky III
Four, for Tango (1987), Astor Piazzolla
Nostalgias, J.C. Cobian
Garufa, J.A. Collazo
Wapango, Paquito D'Rivera
Nina's Samba, Stephen Parisi
Saxophone quartet tunes in world of sound

Composer Biography

1948 —

Grammy Award winner PAQUITO D'RIVERA was born in Havana Cuba. By 1988, Mr. D'Rivera had become a founding member of and soloist with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra, a IS-piece ensemble organized to showcase the fusion of Latin and Caribbean influences into the jazz genre. Since his defection from Cuba, Paquito D'Rivera has taken command of his role as a cross-cultural ambassador, creating and promoting a multinational style that moves from Bebop to Latin to Mozart. D'Rivera is becoming increasingly well-known for his compositions in addition to his extraordinary performing career.

1948 —

Paquito D'Rivera was born in Havana Cuba. He was a child prodigy, playing the clarinet and the saxophone and performing with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra at a very early age. Later he founded the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and Irakere whose explosive mixture of Jazz, Rock, Classical and traditional Cuban music had never been heard before.
In 1981, Mr. D'Rivera sought asylum in the United States, leaving his homeland forever. Dizzy Gillespie, David Amram, Mario Bauza, Bruce Lundvall and other musicians came to his aid with engagements and referrals. By 1988 Mr. D'Rivera had become a founding member of and soloist with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra, a 15-piece ensemble organized to showcase the fusion of Latin and Caribbean influences into the jazz genre.
With his ensembles, Triangulo, devoted exclusively to chamber music, the Paquito D'Rivera Big Band and the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet he tours throughout the world. His appearances in classical venues include solo performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Lukes, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the Florida Philharmonic, the Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra and the Simón Bolivar Symphonic Orchestra among others, and with the Cuban National Symphony he premiered several works by the foremost contemporary Cuban composer Leo Brower. In 1991 Mr. D'Rivera received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Latin music, along with Dizzy Gillespie and Gato Barbieri, and in 1997 became recipient of his second Grammy Award with his record, the highly acclaimed, "Portraits of Cuba."
Since his defection from Cuba, Paquito D'Rivera has taken command of his role as a cross-cultural ambassador, creating and promoting a multinational style that moves from Bebop to Latin to Mozart. Throughout his career in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America D'Rivera's works have received rave reviews from the critics.
D'Rivera is becoming increasingly well-known for his compositions in addition to his extraordinary performing career. His music shows his versatility and wide-ranging influences, from Afro-Cuban ritual melodies to the music of the dance halls, through rhythms encountered in his wide-ranging travels to his origins as a "classical" performer. He is currently writing a flute concerto that will be performed by the National Symphony and a string quartet.
In this quest to bring the Latin-American repertoire into the forefront of the so-called "classical arena" Paquito D'Rivera has created, favored and promoted with success all types of musical classical compositions with elements from South of the Border. In 1999, the Chamber Orchestra Werneck (based in Germany) presented a series titled "D'Rivera Meets Mozart," featuring Paquito's chamber compositions, alongside those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, culminating in a piece written by Paquito featuring the 2nd movement of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, entitled "Adagio"
The Gerald Danovich Saxophone Quartet from Montreal, after performing several of Paquito's works, decided to commission and then recorded his acclaimed "New York Suite" in 1989. The Aspen Wind Quintet also commissioned and premiered his suite "Aires Tropicales," at the Frick Collection, in New York City, in April 1994, and it is already part of the repertoire of many other important wind quintets including the renowned New York Wind Quintet, and has been recorded by at least four quintets.
Paquito continues to receive commissions and also wrote and arranged other chamber pieces which are part of the repertory of ensembles such as The Caracas Clarinet Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Quinteto D'Elas, and many other chamber ensembles throughout the world. His "Rivers", a Poetic suite was premiered Sept. 25th, 1998 for the 25th anniversary Opening Concert of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society and was received so well that he was invited to present it at the NJPAC, in an expanded orchestrated version (also by Mr. D'Rivera).
Presently Mr. D'Rivera is Artist in Residence at NJPAC and Artistic Director for Jazz Programing of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society, sits on the Board of Directors of Chamber Music International, and has just been nominated to sit on the board of Chamber Music America. For the last five years Mr. D'Rivera has been Artistic Director of the famous world-class "Festival International de jazz en el Tambo" now in it's fifth year in Punta del Este, Uruguay. This past year Mr. D'Rivera's guests included such luminaries as McCoy Tyner, James Moody, and Chico Hamilton.
For the year 2000, Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned Paquito to write a piece for their "As of Now" series, premiered, recorded and broadcast on National Public Radio.
A gifted writer, Mr.D'Rivera's "My Saxual Life" is being published by the prestigious Spanish literary house Seix Barral with a prologue by the distinguished author Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and his novel "En Tus Brazos Morenos" will soon follow. Mr. D'Rivera was guest artist at the White House on June 2nd 1999, and shortly after that (June 8th) flew to Spain to receive a special honorary award by Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, (for its 500 year celebration ) recognizing his contribution to the arts, his humane qualities, and his defense for the rights and liberty of artists. This honor was presented on Tuesday June 8th, 1999. And on July 14th, 1999 Paquito performed at the Kennedy Center as featured guest artist in the historical "Americanos" concert, hosted by James Olmos, broadcast by PBS all over the country.
Paquito's discography includes over 24 solo albums, which demonstrates his xtraordinary abilities in Bebop, classical and Latin/Caribbean music. His numerous recordings have received rave reviews and hit the top of the Jazz charts.