“…a mesmerizing blend of restless rhythmic energy and sophisticated instrumental voicing, highlighted by dramatic shifts in tempo and dynamics”, says Jazziz writer Mark Holston.
Embracing a new adventure, Paquito D’Rivera teams up with an avant-rock ensemble.
BY MARK HOLSTON
Since his emergence in 1970s Havana as a member of the groundbreaking fusion band Irakere, Paquito D’Rivera has explored a panoply of musical idioms. Not content to linger too long at one stylistic address, the virtuoso alto saxophonist and clarinetist has ranged throughout the Americas in search of artistic challenges. During his half-century-long career, D’Rivera, 70, has delved into vintage boleros, bebop, Latin American folkloric genres, classical and mambo-rooted big-band music, tango, Brazilian jazz and other styles.
So, when he was invited to collaborate with Volcano
Radar, a Chicago-based ensemble that blends avant-rock with experimental improvisation, D’Rivera didn’t hesitate long before accepting the invitation.
“In the early ’70s, I played in a ‘free jazz’ trio in Havana,” the reedman says, revealing an aspect of his early career that isn’t well known. That unit included the late pianist Emiliano Salvador, who played drums in the group, and bassist Carlos del Puerto, who would go on to become a key member of Irakere. “When my dear friend Elbio Barilari, the Uruguayan composer, Renaissance man and co-leader of Volcano Radar, asked me to explore some free forms, I was initially a bit afraid,” D’Rivera admits. “In the end, however, it was like returning to the adventurous, exciting place of my youth. It was also a unique experience that put me in a different dimension, apart from anything I had recorded up to now.”
The resulting album, Paquito Libre (Delmark), showcases D’Rivera on four of the session’s seven tracks. Another guest, Nicaragua native Darwin Noguera, is featured on piano, Hammond B3 and electronic keys. The group’s other co-leader, Julia A. Miller, plays electric and synth guitars and electric bass, and drummer and percussionist Ernie Adams and bassist Rollo Radford round out the group.
The complex character of their performances is enhanced by
the presence of multi-instrumentalist Barilari, who switches among electric guitar, Fender Rhodes, flugelhorn, bass clarinet, pocket trumpet, electric viola, electric bass, bandoneón (a concertina used in tango), berimbau (a Brazilian musical bow) and electronics. The arrangements, whether acoustic or electronic- leaning, are a mesmerizing blend of restless rhythmic and sophisticated instrumental voicing, highlighted by dramatic shifts in tempo and dynamics
The only reason I don’t play this type of music,” the loquacious D’Rivera quips, “is because nobody ever asks me!”
Being in the studio with D’Rivera was a particular joy for Miller, who is also CEO of the recently sold Chicago-based Delmark Records. (Barilari serves as vice president and artistic director.) Under the stewardship of founder Bob Koester, the 65-year-old label recorded notable avant-gardists such as Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton and The Art Ensemble of Chicago, while also championing mainstream jazz artists. Paquito Libre fits right in at the revamped company, which continues to release new recordings by promising artists such as Geof Bradfield and Fareed Haque.
“Paquito is very much into details,” Miller explains. “He even noticed that his clarinet and my guitar synth were made of the same type of wood. And he immediately adapted to the style of the band, as much as we were trying to follow him and incorporate him within our sound.”
“I love exploring different scenarios and playing with different people and experimenting with artistic challenges,” D’Rivera says. “Now, let’s see how listeners receive this totally new, lesser known aspect of me as an improviser.”