Paquito D’Rivera, Composer/Saxophonist/Clarinetist
Born on the island of Cuba, Paquito D'Rivera began his career as a child prodigy. A restless musical whiz during his teen years, Mr. D’Rivera created various original and ground-breaking musical ensembles. As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He eventually went on to premiere several works by notable Cuban composers with the same orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several Grammy nominations (1979, 1980) and a Grammy (1979).
Paquito D'Rivera is the first artist to win Latin Grammy's in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories (2003), for Stravinsky’s Historia del Soldado (L'Histoire du Soldat) and Brazilian Dreams with the New York Voices. The other historic recipient who has won duo Grammy's in both Classical and Jazz categories is Wynton Marsalis.
D’Rivera is a recipient of the National Medal for the Arts, presented at the White House by President George W. Bush in 2005, and was named one of the 2005 NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Jazz Masters.
While Paquito D'Rivera's discography includes over 30 solo albums in Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. They include solo performances with the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He has also performed with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rica National Symphony, the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, among others.
In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Paquito D'Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as a dynamic composer. The prestigious music house, Boosey and Hawkes, is the exclusive publisher of Mr. D'Rivera’s compositions. Recognition of his significant compositional skills came in 2007 with the award of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and the 2007-2008 appointment as Composer-In-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. His works often reveal his widespread and eclectic musical interests, ranging from Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies, including influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins.
Also a gifted author, Mr. D’Rivera’s book, My Sax Life, was published in Spain by the prestigious literary house, Seix Barral, and contains a prologue by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. Acclaimed by the public and critics alike, the English edition was released by Northwestern University Press in November 2005.
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem was proud to feature one of the most respected and beloved artists in jazz for what was a discussion full of fun by a free-spirited virtuoso artist who puts profound feeling into his music, no matter the style or genre.