Paquito D'Rivera Quintet Experience
Paquito D'Rivera And Me
It was certainly a thrill for me to meet and hear nine time Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera and members of his jazz quintet yesterday prior to their University of Louisville concert. My jazz buddy Kim Harrod, my sax student Shane Leger, my son Matthew and I arrived early and entered the music building through the back door. Not being familiar with the building's layout, we stumbled upon the backstage entrance that led us right onto the stage. The band was just beginning to set up their equipment and didn't seem to mind us being there, so we took advantage of our good fortune and stayed to check things out.
Paquito signed cds for us and appreciated our enthusiasm for his talent. After meeting him, we stayed and heard them rehearse and do a sound check. It was exciting to hear these master musicians as they rehearsed. When they finished, we followed them to "The Green Room" where shrimp and soft drinks were presented on a table. The room was a comfortable place for the band to relax and mentally prepare for the upcoming concert. Paquito brought his clarinet into the room, bassist Oscar Stagnaro brought his axe, and pianist Alon Yavnai sat at the baby grand piano next to the couch. It was then that we were treated to an impromptu mini rehearsal of some of the intricate passages of several things they planned to incorporate into their concert performance that evening. It was awesome to watch these incredible musicians work as the latin jazz great and clarinet virtuoso Paquito explained to Alon and Oscar the way he wanted certain passages played that evening. He demonstrated to them by playing the licks on his clarinet and by scat singing the notes and phrases that he wanted them to play at certain times in the tune. After ten minutes or so of music discussion and practice, they concluded their session by playing a few choruses of "All The Things You Are" and then smiled with satisfaction at the astounding music that they had just created. It was quite an experience for us to watch and hear. Paquito is perhaps the best clarinetist in the world, and we heard him executing his incredible jazz ideas between bites of shrimp as he sat in the large cushioned chair.
At the concert we sat on the front row and had an unbelievable view of the players. I snapped the above photo from my seat as the band acknowledged the crowd. Shown is premier bassist Oscar Stagnaro, accomplished pianist Alon Yavnai, exciting trumpeter Diego Urcola, Paquito, and the amazing drummer Mark Walker. I can't imagine a stronger rhythm section than the one we heard. The Margaret Comstock Concert Hall was a nice place to hear the concert and the volume balance of the different instruments was very good. Paquito cracked us up when he brought audience member Jamey Aebersold onstage and had him count off a tune in his trademark monotone..."One...two...one, two, three, four." It was the exact same way Jamey does it on his famous educational playalong series of records. It was a hoot.
The concert ranked way up there on my favorites list. I've always loved Paquito's music. His playing of both his alto sax and clarinet are fabulous. He can play with electifying technique and also in a very soulful way. I've not yet heard anyone handle a latin ballad as nicely as Paquito. He demonstrates a wonderful command of his horn on everything he plays. He is also an accomplished composer. The opportunity of the being there for the rehearsal, then watching and listening in The Green Room, and finally sitting in the front row at centerstage for the concert made the evening one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I have ever had. Viva Paquito!