Paquito D’Rivera – Panamericana Suite (MCG Jazz – 2010)

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The importance of Paquito D’Rivera’s Panamericana Suite cannot be diminished although it was released almost six months ago. D’Rivera premiered this Suite when he and his Orchestra made a stellar appearance playing a dramatic version of this chart in Fernando Trueba’s seminal film, Calle 54. However on this live performance, released in November 2010, D’Rivera and his Panamericana Orchestra embellish the suite with gorgeous other aspects of Pan-American that pay rich tribute to the vast musical civilization that exists in his own soul. This arises, no doubt, from his deeply spiritual Afro-Cuban roots as well as the fact that he shares a musical heritage that crosses cultures, melding with European forms and idioms as well as the African blues, the root of a whole musical culture that only exists outside Africa in America.

This is how D’Rivera comes to render a classical waltz, as in “Waltz for Moe” as a Colombian/Venezuelan joropo also allowing its exquisite rhythm in a vivacious bed of jazz. The chart is, of course, dedicated to the late Canadian winds and reeds maestro, Moe Koffman. D’Rivera makes it a point to highlight the connection, ensuring that its cross-cultural sweep is not lost as he makes a graceful human tribute here. This is another aspect of the Suite. Its all-encompassing musical significance crests each time the music remembers the men and—in the case of D’Rivera’s wife—the elegantly powerful soprano, Brenda Feliciano. Back, however to the topography of the Panamericana Suite.

This Orchestra is not just composed of musicians from musical cultures as far removed as Martinique is from Cuba and Africa. It is these wonderful artists who bring with them something special to the music. In the principal segment of the music, the “Panamericana Suite” (the chart, that is), the master percussionist Pedro Martínez begins the piece by calling upon the Orishas the endeavour. The music begins to soar upon the wings of the spirits and only alights when it pierces heart and soul. Although the Suite (the album, now) comes alive with the brilliance of its musicians, it is D’Rivera who is the guiding spirit. The joyous wail of his alto saxophone as it enters in mid-musical phrase, so to speak is so masterful and so singularly unique that D’Rivera is recognizable and beloved from just a few notes, just as Charlie Parker, or John Coltrane were, for instance.

So is Brenda Feliciano, as a matter of fact. The sensational gracefulness of her soprano is her ability to make it glide as it flies remarkably and captivates with its sensuousness. Feliciano is called upon to match the finest arias in modern memory with two of her own. The first takes the “Panamericana Suite” to great heights and when she is called upon to sing again, Feliciano makes a stellar turn on “Song for Peace,” the ecstatic conclusion to the Suite.

Paquito D’Rivera may have produced several albums since this live recording, but it still remains one of the most significant in prolific repertoire of this truly important musician.

Track Listing: 1. Waltz for Moe; 2. Con Alma; 3. Preludio No. 3; 4. Tojo; 5. Panamericana Suite; 6. Fiddle Dreams; 7. Serenade; 8. Song for Peace.

Personnel: Paquito D’Rivera: clarinet, alto saxophone; Brenda Feliciano: soprano; Andy Narell: steel pans; Dave Samuels: vibraphone, marimba; Diego Urcola: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dana Leong: cello, trombone; Edmar Castaneda: harp; Hector Del Curto: bandoneon; Pedro Martinez: batas, timbales, vocals; Pernell Saturnino: percussion; Alon Yavnai: piano; Oscar Stagnaro: bass; Mark Walker: drums.

Paquito D’Rivera on the web: www.paquitodrivera.com

Canadian writer. Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a musician and an accomplished writer whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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