Funk Tango (Sunnyside Records)

Paquito D’Rivera Quintet

Released May, 2007

Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album 2008




In the family of music, jazz and the tango are cousins: Both are the products of Africa, Europe and the Americas; of New Orleans, Havana and Buenos Aires; of swing, the blues, the clave and the milonga, all brought together by a New World blend of Spanish, Black, Caribbean, North and South American peoples.

The multi-talented clarinetist/alto saxophonist/composer/bandleader Paquito D’Rivera – a fourteen-time Grammy winner, and the only artist to have won Grammies in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories – understands all of the myriad inventions and dimensions of those musical genres. His latest release, Tango Jazz: Live at Jazz at Lincoln Center, recorded in New York City in March 2010, is a scintillating live document, featuring the great argentine bassist Pablo Aslan, pianist Abel Rogantini, violinists Nicolas Danielson and Pablo Agri, trumpeter Gustavo Bergalli, Michael Zisman and the legendary Raul Jaurena on bandoneon, and drummer Daniel Piazzolla, grandson of the immortal tango master Astor Piazzolla. They successfully continue the leader’s tango-centric focus he started on his 2007 release Funk Tango. For D’Rivera, his love affair with the tango is nothing new: it goes back to his days growing up in Cuba listening to Argentine music on the radio.

“Names such as Libertad Lamarque, Pepe Biondi and Hugo del Carrill filled TV and movie screens throughout the island, and while listening to the local radio stations, we learned to admire musicians such as Marianito Mores, Anibal “Pichuco” Troilo and the immortal Carlos Gardel,” D’Rivera writes from the CD liner notes. “Much later, around 1970, my friend Alberto Romeu played for me that Astor Piazzolla LP that sealed forever my love for the Tango and the sublime bandoneon, it’s most emblematic instrument.”

D’Rivera’s love for the tango, rendered in a Latin jazz context, is evident on the eight tracks on this CD. The leader’s lovely laser-like clarinet and sax freely float over the crisp staccato, poetic percussive habanera/River Plate rhythms that imbue the tango with its beauty and buoyancy. “Viejo Smocking,” “Beto,” and “Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind” all swing with a brisk, 4/4 feel, contrasted by the lilting and lovely ballad-style offering “Bandoneon,” the danceable take on the American standard “Goodbye,” the Cubanesque “Tangoguajira,” and the peppery, contrapuntal “Verano Porteno.”

In the hands of a lesser-talented musician, this marriage of jazz and tango would be quickly annulled. Thankfully, Paquito D’Rivera has been a successful matchmaker of many musical idioms for four decades. Born in Havana in 1948, D’Rivera emulated Benny Goodman on the clarinet, drank in the bebop of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as the many native Afro-Cuban musical traditions all around him, and played in the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. In the sixties, he co-founded the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, and the supergroup Irakere. D’Rivera defected to the U.S. in 1980, and has recorded over forty records as a leader, including Blowin’ (Columbia 1981), Manhattan Burn (Columbia 1986) Cuba Jazz: 90 miles to Cuba (RMM), Portraits of Cuba (Chesky, 1991), The Jazz Chamber Trio (Chesky, 2005) and Funk Tango (Sunnyside, 2007), which earned him a GRAMMY for “Best Latin Jazz Album” that same year. He wrote the book, My Sax Life published by Northwestern University Press in 2005, and a novel, Oh, La Habana, published by Recorded Books, LLC. A master educator, D’Rivera currently serves as Artist-in-Residence at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). D’Rivera was also featured in the Latin jazz documentary, Calle 54 (2001). On Jazz Tango, Paquito D’Rivera shows that, through jazz, all of the world’s far-flung music can come together. “Jazz is the most representative product of a multinational and polycultural society like America,” D’Rivera writes in the CD liner notes, “so there was no better place to make this recording, other than at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and no one better than Pablo Aslan to put together this old dream of mine of a genuine Tango Jazz recording.”

Track Listing:

1. Pere 6:35

2. What About That! (Mark Walker) 6:56

3. Revirado (Astor Piazzolla) 5:36

4. Contradanza (Paquito D’Rivera) 3:05

5. Milonga 10 (Fernando Otero) 5:17

6. Final Waltz (Diego Urcola) 5:27

7. Funk Tango 7:09

8. Mariela’s Dream (Alain Mallet / Oscar Stagnaro) 6:48

9. La Yumba-Caravan (Osvaldo Pugliese / Juan Tizol) 8:01

10. Como un Bolero (Paquito D’Rivera) 4:49

11. Giant Steps (John Coltrane) 5:50


Paquito D’Rivera: alto saxophone, clarinet
Diego Urcola: trumpet, valve trombone
Ed Simon: piano
Alon Yavnai: piano
Fernando Otero: piano
Oscar Stagnaro: acoustic bass
Mark Walker: drums
Pernell Saturnino: percussion
Pablo Stagnaro: cajón
Hector del Curto: bandoneon

Recorded October 24 – 25, 2006, at Knoop Studios, Paramus, NJ

Produced by Paquito D’Rivera and Brenda Feliciano

Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Tom Swift


D’Rivera calls his “favorite” core grouping a “quintet?” with a question mark because of his preference for a flexible five-piece, one that can contract to a duo or expand to a larger ensemble. His basic five here includes himself on alto and clarinet, Argentine trumpeter/valve trombonist Diego Urcola, Israeli pianist Alon Yavnai, Peruvian bassist Oscar Stagnaro and Chicago drummer Mark Walker, augmented at times by pianists Edward Simon and Fernando Otero, bandoneon master Hector del Curto, and percussionists Pernell Saturnino and Pablo Stagnaro.
This CD, D’Rivera’s first self-produced, should be considered one of the best of 2007-the quality of the playing, compositions and arrangements are all of the highest order. Urcola’s beautiful ballad “Final Waltz,” Stagnaro’s mystical Afro-Cuban excursion “Mariela’s Dream,” D’Rivera’s mournful “Como un Bolero,” Otero’s intense “Milonga 10,” Yavnai’s tango/hard-bop “Funk Tango,” Walker’s Brazilian-rhythm’d “What About That!,” Simon’s sinuous “Pere,” and last but not least, D’Rivera’s “Contradanza,” his sensational duet on clarinet with pianist Yavnai, in sum leave the listener satiated but wanting still more. And more comes with an exceptional version of Piazzolla’s “Revirado,” a cleverly Latinized “Giant Steps,” and “La Yumba-Caravan,” Juan Tizol’s classic transformed brilliantly into an amalgam of tango and bop influences.
D’Rivera is on fire throughout on both his instruments. Urcola impresses in a Miles-flavored style on trumpet as well as in his debut on valve trombone. Yavnai’s versatility, passion and invention mark him a talent to watch. As for all the other contributors, their flawless musicianship helps make this great recording the total success that it is.

Scott Albin (JazzTimes)