Just when it is believed that Paquito D’Rivera is a fine alto saxophonist who also plays clarinet, he goes and makes an album almost completely on clarinet—a Brasilian one at that; in homage to a country and its people most beloved to the Cuban-born, New York-based genius. Perhaps the magic moment had arrived—never too early and never too late. And as it was all a matter of sharing love, Mr. D’Rivera put it all out there, playing one of his favourite songs and naming the album after one of his favourite women of all time: his mother. The album, is, of course, Song for Maura, which like a magnificent edifice, is built on 13 classic charts—some written for the date—one of which is a tribute to another great woman, the Brasilian chanteuse, Leny Andrade and the other a right royal tribute to the King of choro, Pixinguinha and that is the maestro’s legendary choro, “1 x 0,” which was christened by Pixinguinha in the Portuguese, “Um a zero” written for Brasil’s other great passion and export: football.
Paquito D’Rivera might actually want to be known as a fine clarinet player who also plays alto saxophone. His 2001 release on Pimienta Records, The Clarinetist, a recording he made solely on clarinet, was nominated for a Grammy in the Latin Jazz category. He plays a singular burnished burgundy-coloured instrument which boasts a classic woody resonating sound, and this matches his singular voice which is warm, with moist notes rushing out of the bell of his instrument like a herd of excited impala, leaping into the air as if intoxicated by it. Mr. D’Rivera’s lines begin simply enough, but then turn into wonderful filigreed baroque characters pirouetting like figures in a circling one another, then coming together, melody and harmony locked in passionate embrace. On this album, Song for Maura the added element of Brasilian rhythms, recalls some of his finest performances in that idiom, especially those that he played with Dizzy Gillespie in the United Nations Orchestra. In fact he made it well known that one of his abiding passions is Brasil—from the Carnival, with its dancers and samba bands, as well its folkloric and MPB to post-MPB popular music. And he has played every form of that kind of music.
Mr. D’Rivera loves explosive introductions. On this recording he sets the blistering pace with his version of “Chorinho pra Você”. Fortunately his ensemble—Trio Corrente, comprising pianist Fabio Torres, bassist Paulo Paulelli and percussion colourist, Edú Ribeiro—is all-Brasilian, has been playing together for a few years now and takes up his gauntlet with ease; in fact it is the trio who start things off. Mr. Ribeiro actually is one of the stars of this recording with his awe-inspiring brush-work form end to end. Of course there are only winners here and elsewhere. “Song For Maura,” which Paquito D’Rivera has played on numerous occasions—including one with Airto Moreira and Ignacio Berroa and the rest of the United Nations Orchestra—gets a complete makeover. The elegiac nature of the composition makes for a truly emotional rendition especially when Mr. D’Rivera hits the upper register of his clarinet. Pianist Fabio Torres develops an exquisite solo here, constructing his fine excursion as if he were sculpting an exquisite figurine; of Ms. Maura, no doubt. The excitement that follows knows no bounds as Paquito D’Rivera and Trio Corrente pursue a road less travelled.
It might be customary for musicians paying tribute to Brasil by picking familiar charts, but not Paquito D’Rivera. Interestingly the clarinetist and his trio lead off with a typically complex composition “Di Menor” by the great Brasilian Guinga and Celso Viáfora, which of course suits Mr. D’Rivera perfectly as it comprises dramatic twists and turns in melody and challenging rhythmic variations. The group sparkles on choro music from the pens of Severino Araujo and Pixinguinha, as well as on ethereally beautiful compositions by Johnny Alf and Claudio Roditi and of course “Sonoroso” from the pen of Ximbinho, the title of which seems to suit the sonority of Mr. D’Rivera’s wonderful woodwind instrument. And there is plenty more on this recording to cheer wildly about. Which is why the album has been nominated for a Grammy Award, which is not, the only reason why this record is so desirable; it is all in the exquisite music.
Track Listing: Chorinho pra Você; Song For Maura; Di Menor; Sonoroso; Cebola no Frevo; For Leny; Murmurando; Paquito; Céu e Mar; 1 x 0; Tem Dó; Recife Blues; Saidera.
Personnel: Paquito D’Rivera: alto saxophone, clarinet; Fabio Torres: piano; Paulo Paulelli: contrabass; Edú Ribeiro: drums.
Label: Sunnyside Records | Release date: July 2013