Paquito D’Rivera and The United Nation Orchestra: A Night in Englewood

Paquito D'Rivera and The United Nation Orchestra: A Night in Englewood
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This album was made at the time after Paquito D’Rivera had inherited what was left of Dizzy Gillespie’s seminal United Nation Orchestra and just before the alto saxophonist and clarinetist created his own (smaller) ensemble which still exists today albeit with a few new personnel, although the foundations of the “new” ensemble that has become Mr D’Rivera’s calling-card are already here – including the inimitable trumpeter Diego Urcola and bassist Oscar Stagnaro. Also perceptible is, interestingly, a very unique sound of music – a volcanic mix of Jazz bubbling and boiling in a bed of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brasilian music and dance forms. All of these viscerally energetic rhythmic forms swirling around the high and lonesome wail of Mr D’Rivera’s alto saxophone, and often aglow when he puts away the alto horn and replaces it with his burnished burgundy clarinet.

Essential Albums Revisited

Of course, all of this music is anything but what you might get accustomed to hearing from a big band. Dizzy’s great orchestra was not simply a gathering of the finest virtuosos from various corners of North and South America, but the great beboppper had created a musical palimpsest that grew out of the signature melodic, harmonic and rhythmic concept that he helped fashion and refine with his star and alter ego, Charlie Parker. The United Nation Orchestra drew members from various musical cultures with a concomitant vision that had everything to do with being kindred spirits with one goal – and that was to advance the gospel of music. In doing so, many different cultural idioms came together as they had in the music of its founder, many years before the formation of the group.

What we hear in this early (or late – depending on which period in its chronology you regard this music) date advances Dizzy’s legacy, but clearly puts Mr D’Rivera’s singular musical stamp on the big and vociferous sound of the ensemble. One Night in Englewood also brings back charter members of the group – onetime musical director and trombonist Slide Hampton and trumpeter Claudio Roditi, who are also joined by noted bandoneonist Raúl Juarena and the late, great mallet percussionist Dave Samuels as well. And there is, of course, the towering presence of the great Mario Rivera, with the raw power of his tenor saxophone. The sound of this ensemble befits its size. It is elegantly loud and forthright, and there is never a predictable or dull moment in the proceedings as the repertoire is run through with the precision of a large and well-oiled mechanism.

Paquito D’Rivera leads – as usual – from the front with fiery soli ornamented by vaunted glissandos and blinding runs that tumble from his alto saxophone (and clarinet) in breezy cascades. There is not a single corner of the musical continent that is not visited – from Brasil and Argentina to the far-flung islands where Afro-Caribbean music bubbles and boils over. But as ever, Mr D’Rivera’s characterisation of the artistic topography is singularly driven. The result is even forms that were re-invented by others become polished gems with Mr D’Rivera’s unique stamp on them. “Blues for Astor” is one such piece as is “Snow Samba”. (Knowing just how puckish a bon vivant Mr D’Rivera is, he probably had a story for every song that was played on A Night in Englewood and it’s a pity that we don’t get to hear those on this disc. Still this recording that ends with a brilliant version of one of Mr D’Rivera’s greatest and most tender tunes – “To Brenda with Love” – is a masterpiece and that too, one with unique historical value.

Track list – 1: Snow Samba; 2: Alma Llanera; 3: I Remember Diz; 4: Blues For Astor; 5: Modo Cubano; 6: La Puerta; 7: Bonitinha; 8: Conga Pa Paquito; 9: To Brenda With Love

Personnel – Paquito D’Rivera: alto saxophone and clarinet; Byron Stripling: trumpet; Mike Ponella: trumpet and flugelhorn; Diego Urcola: trumpet and flugelhorn; Conrad Herwig: trombone; William Cepeda: tenor and bass trombones; Marshall McDonald: alto saxophone; Andrés Bolarsky: tenor saxophone; Steve Sacks: tenor saxophone; Mario Rivera: tenor saxophone and flute; Romero Lubambo: guitar; Mike Orta: piano; Carlos Franzetti: piano; Oscar Stagnaro: electric bass; Adam Cruz: drums; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums; Bobby Sanábria: percussion; With Guests – Slide Hampton: trombone; Claudio Roditi: trumpet; Dave Samuels: marimba and vibraphone; Raúl Juarena: bandoneon

Released – 1994
Label – Messidor (158292)
Runtime – 52:39

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

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