BEFORE: (immediately starts singing along with the intro) C’mon in, Bird. I think that’s Mario playing the lead alto in the orchestra. I never get tired of listening to this. My father was a personal friend of Mario Bauzá, and he always told me Mario went to the States and made it big there. He also said Bauzá was an alto saxophonist and clarinetist in Cuba, and learned the trumpet only after he came to the States. Of course that’s Mango Mangue. Continue reading
Most successful, creative jazz musicians today are adept at multi-tasking; they often lead several groups, cross various genres, and write original music. Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and bandleader Paquito D’Rivera has done all that and more. Of course it doesn’t hurt that he’s also an acclaimed virtuoso.
Born in Havana in 1948, Mr. D’Rivera was a child prodigy who performed with the Cuban National Symphony, and at age twelve entered the Havana Conservatory. In 1965, D’Rivera and pianist Chucho Valdez formed the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which later morphed into the Cuban Jazz-Rock supergroup Irakere.
Since arriving in the U.S. in 1981, D’Rivera has led his own combos and big bands, and is becoming increasingly well known for his classical chamber compositions. He has received numerous commissions and he’s appeared as guest soloist with symphony orchestras throughout the Americas and Europe.
D’Rivera has over 30 records in his discography, including two Grammy Award-winning titles, and his musical associates have included Dizzy Gillespie, Cachao, Astor Piazzola, McCoy Tyner, Carmen McRae, and Benny Carter. His latest recording, Habanera (Enja), features his work with The Absolute Ensemble.
As if that weren’t enough, the indefatigable D’Rivera has written his soon to be published autobiography My Saxual Life, and a novel, En tus brazos morenos.
1. Charlie Parker with Machito and his Orchestra
“Mango Mangue” (from Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve). Recorded in 1948. Charlie Parker, alto saxophone solo
BEFORE: (immediately starts singing along with the intro) C’mon in Bird. I think that’s Mario playing the lead alto in the orchestra. I never get tired of listening to this. My father was a personal friend of Mario Bauzá, and he always told me Mario went to the States and made it big there. He also said Bauzá was an alto saxophonist and clarinetist in Cuba, and learned the trumpet only after he came to the States. Of course that’s Mango Mangue.
AFTER: I had been a kid soloist playing classical and commercial music in Havana and I remember the first time I heard be-bop, it was a shock. My father was a classical saxophone player who loved jazz, especially the big bands; Ellington, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and all that. When he played be-bop for me for the first time, it was Charlie Parker and Dizzy (sings first eight bars of Red Cross), and I asked him what the hell is that? He told me be-bop and asked if I liked it? I said no, and he said he didn’t either but it was indisputably well-done. It was big confusion for us. It’s like we had all been listening to Mozart and someone played Stravinsky.
LA: How well does Bird play on clave?
PR: There is a tendency to idolize everything that the genius does, so I will tell you what Machito told me. I asked Machito about his experience with Charlie Parker and Chico O’Farrill and that wonderful era, and he told me that Bird was so musical, like Midas, everything he touched turned to gold. But he said Bird didn’t understand one single note of Cuban music. Machito played his music and Parker played his own thing on top. Dizzy understood Cuban music much better. I’m not putting down Parker at all. Red Rodney said the same thing. He said: “Bird and I tried to understand it and we always asked, where the fuck is the one?”