Stratospheric Latin jazz

Paquito D'Rivera - Panamericana Suite
Paquito D’Rivera and his Panamericana Orchestra

Panamericana Suite (MCG Jazz, 20100

Recorded live at Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, Paquito D’Rivera’s Panamericana Suite spirits away the listener on a jazz infused world music fantasy extravaganza. Sampling and savoring the lush traditions of Central and South America, this bold recording zings and sizzles with Mr. D’Rivera’s impassioned musical take on the Latin sound. Taking its name from a commissioned piece for Jazz at Lincoln Center that premiered in 2000, Panamericana Suite thrums with the richness of Caribbean rhythms, dashes of aching tango, Latin brass and sultry Afro-Cuban percussion all wrapped around Mr. D’Rivera’s finely honed jazz sensibilities.

The alto saxophonist and clarinetist, whose career includes everything from classical to the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Big Band to being a founding member and director of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna and founder of the Cuban jazz group Irakere to his musical directorship at the United Nations Orchestra, Mr. D’Rivera explains his take onPanamericana Suite, “I am an eclectic person. I grew up the son of a classical saxophone player who loved jazz, He loved to put on Heifetz and Mario Lanza, and then listen to Benny Goodman and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Growing up in Havana, Latin American music was in the air.”

Brimming over with the likes of batá and timbales player Pedro Martinez, percussionist Pernell Saturnino, bassists Oscar Stagnaro and Mark Walker, pianist Alon Yavnai, steel pan player Andy Narell, vibraphonist and marimba player Dave Samuels, trumpeter Diego Urcola and soprano Brenda Felicano, the Panamericana Suite fairly reels with the artistic and musical talent incorporated in this work. Putting his own indelible stamp, Mr. D’Rivera works over the listener with in his own extraordinary clarinet and saxophone lines, weaving a spell that’s hard to resist.

Luxuriating in Mr. D’Rivera compositions, the music of the Panamericana Suite delves deep and soars with such tracks as the plummy opening “Waltz for Moe,” a tribute piece for reed master Moe Koffman and woven with a joropo rhythm for harpist Edmar Castaneda, the extravagantly worked title track “Panamericana Suite” and the whip sharp and savvy “Fiddle Dreams,” a piece written for Regina Carter and a commissioned work for the Library of Congress. The Dizzy Gillespie composition “Con Alma,” reworked by Mr. D’Rivera, is simply not to be missed with its meaty Latin percussion, sassy brass lines and warm, rich steel pan flash. Equally rewarding is “Serenade” and the expansive “Song for Peace” with Ms. Feliciano’s lovely vocals.

Panamericana Suite is stunningly specular, sending Latin jazz out into the stratosphere.

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.


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