Paquito D’Rivera – The Clarinetist

The Clarinetist
Paquito D’Rivera
(Peregrina Music – 2001)
by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

For those waiting for that great jazz clarinet album from Cuban Paquito D’Rivera, this isn’t it. No disrespect to the composers, but D’Rivera, primarily known in the jazz world as an alto saxophonists, has for year teased audiences by showing only glimpses of the incredible clarinetist he is by only featuring one or two tunes on the black stick in his performances, and even on his albums. Other players like Don Byron, Ken Peplowski, and Eddie Daniel have to know that if he took up the instrument full time he’d take notices, and probably gigs, away from all of them.

What we have on this disc really is D’Rivera with strings playing new music or contemporary classical, with only the three tunes in the middle, two originals and Ray Tico’s immortal Habana, remotely classifying as jazz. And the three tunes are beautiful, with sweeping strings, and great piano work from Frank Chastenier, from Germany’s WDR Big Band. Aurally, they must be D’Rivera’s remembrances of the great Latin orchestras that kept tourists and natives dancing in the pre-Castro Havana ballrooms.

The rest of the record is intense orchestral pieces with Pan-American the mes, with D’Rivera showing more of his Bach influences than what he picked up from Dizzy.