• Paquito D'Rivera: He's a Champion

    November 4, 2009. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Photo by Fran Kaufman
    Photo by Fran Kaufman

    Last night -- Tues, Nov 3 -- WBGO celebrated 30 years with a Benefit Concert honoring Paquito D'Rivera and Down Beat magazine (now age 75). The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Ernie Andrews, Freddie Cole, Stefon Harris, Nikki Yanofsky, three saxophonists from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orch (Walter Blanding Jr., Sherman Irby, Ted Nash), MC Lester Holt .. there will be pictures!!

    Paquito D'Rivera accepted the honor with more than music. He spoke these words:

    During the days of complete lack of information from the outside world in our self-isolated native island, for a Cuban musician of my generation, the best gifts from a foreign visitor were: an American Jazz LP, a Jamey Aebersold’s play-a-long set, and a copy of the latest Down Beat magazine. So when I finally came to New York for good in 1980, happily, WBGO was on the air, giving me a warm welcome to “The Jungle,” “The Big Apple,” the city of my dreams. Ever since, I religiously buy the Down Beat every month and tune in daily to WBGO to listen, before buying the new recordings on the market. What I never expected -- not even in my wildest dreams -- was that some day, I was going to have a whole page advertising of my own Jamey Aebersold volume 77 on an issue of my favorite Jazz magazine, and with my face on the cover too!. And on top of that, sharing this marvelous celebration with Down Beat, produced by the radio station that for 30 years has been giving us so much listening pleasure and has so generously provided so much support to our music.

    Tonight is for me a night of memories. Especially my father, who showed me the wonderful world of music, arts and literature. A classical tenor-man himself, although he never had the ability to improvise, he loved the sweet sounds of Lester Young and Stan Getz. He also enjoyed the Benny Goodman Swing Orchestra as much as he dug his rendition of the Mozart clarinet concerto in A.

    At age 5, my dad handed me a curved soprano saxophone and presented me in public the following year. Profesor Tito Rivera exposed me from a very tender age to the Ellingtonian philosophy that “There are only two kind of music: good, and the other stuff.” Thanks to this wise concept in music education, I have been lucky enough to be able to share the stage with the likes of Bebo and Chucho Valdés, Yo Yo Ma, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Dizzy Gillespie, The Chicago Chamber Music Society, Jon Faddis, David Amram, and the National Symphony Orchestra. I must tell you guys that I had so much fun while learning a great deal from these masterful artists.

    I want to finish by thanking Adina Williams from my publishers Boosey and Hawkes, the writers and editors of Down Beat, my beautiful wife Brenda, Irene and Eddie at my office, the fantastic musicians that have worked with me for the last 55 years, and particularly, the entire staff at WBGO for putting together such an overwhelming celebration.

    Paquito D’Rivera

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