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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Quartier Latin

Opus Arte OA 6001 D



1. Por Alegrias
2. I Remember Dizzy
3. Rumba pa’Jerry
4. Poinciana
5. Aria de Musetta
6. Blues Imaginario
7. A mi Padre
8. Vamonos pa Cai
9. Bruselas en la Fluvia
10. Rumba Marina
Chano Dominguez – Piano
Paquito d’Rivera – Alto sax, clarinet
Anga Diaz – Percussion
Marc Miralta – Drums
Mario Rossy – Bass
Israel Suarez "Pirana" – Flamenco percussion

Paquito d’Rivera is one of those musicians - like Chucho Valdes and Arturo Sandoval – who came out of Cuba to amaze us with their technical prowess. First with Irakere and then with Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra (which Paquito has led since Dizzy’s death), Paquito established himself as a force to be reckoned with. On this DVD we can see the man in action, and he is certainly very talented. The concert was filmed at the Teatro Real in Madrid, where a production of Puccini’s La Bohéme was still running, so the musicians play against the backdrop of a square in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Because it’s a night-time scene, the atmosphere is a bit gloomy, leaving the musicians in rather dark surroundings.

Nevertheless the music shines through, with Paquito and Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez on top form, backed by a faultless bassist and three percussionists who constantly add to the dynamism of the performance. The concert opens with a thoughtful piano introduction from Dominguez, with hints of flamenco in the rhythms. Chano is credited with creating the "New Flamenco Sound" and the music sometimes reminds me of Lionel Hampton’s Jazz Flamenco album and Chick Corea’s Spanish-tinged explorations. This opening track, Por Alegrias, is a sequence of fairly gentle 12-in-a-bar meditations. After this, Paquito d’Rivera enters and plays his own composition, I Remember Dizzy, on clarinet, appropriately quoting from A Night in Tunisia. The tune is a bossa nova but it’s notable that none of the percussionists plays what is usually considered to be the usual bossa beat (which has admittedly become somewhat hackneyed). Paquito introduces each number but these introductions are in Spanish, without subtitles. Yet you don’t feel you are missing much, as the music is a universal language that everyone can understand.

Chano’s composition Rumba pa’Jerry (dedicated to Jerry Gonzalez) heats things up after the comparative serenity of the first two tunes. Paquito’s alto sax blazes, and Chano’s piano solo is equally fiery. The three percussionists are featured together, with Israel Suarez playing what looks like an ordinary wooden box and Anga Diaz hitting the conga drums with great power. The man appears to have hands of steel. Sadly, he died a few months after this concert, at the early age of 46.

Poinciana pays homage to Ahmad Jamal with the sincerest form of flattery. The group builds a very similar pulse to the one on Jamal’s classic recording. Because the group is backed by scenery for La Boheme, the quintet plays Paquito’s arrangement of an aria from that opera. It is in 6/8 time, and Paquito’s clarinet soars heavenwards like an operatic soprano. Chano’s Blues Imaginario speeds up the tempo again: a very lively blues with a hustling Latin beat. After an electrifying piano solo, Paquito signals the percussion to fall silent and he plays a duet with Chano that is full of friendly humour – one of the highspots of the evening (but just one of many). Chano’s A mi Padre moderates the tempo, with poignant solos form the two frontmen.

Vamonos pa’Cai provides another contrast, described in the sleeve-note as "a furious buleria by Chano". A buleria is apparently another flamenco genre in 12/8. Marc Miralta’s drums propel this along through several changes in tempo, alternating between Latin-American Spanish and straight 4/4 swing. Paquito introduces the musicians with good humour before two encores: a bolero written by Paquito to honour Toots Thielemans (ending with some more playfulness between Paquito and Chano) and Chano’s Rumba Marina with a short but impressive drum solo. Throughout the concert, the three percussionists maintain those intriguing overlapping rhythms which are one of Latin America’s greatest contributions to modern music. This, along with the inspired solos, makes for a completely invigorating performance.

Tony Augarde


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