Paquito D'Rivera

Paquito D'Rivera

D'Rivera in 2015
Background information
Birth name Paquito Francisco D'Rivera
Born (1948-06-04) 4 June 1948
Havana, Cuba
Genres Jazz, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader
Instruments Saxophone, clarinet
Years active 1970s–present
Labels Sunnyside, Paquito
Associated acts Trío Corrente, Caribbean Jazz Project

Paquito D'Rivera (born June 4, 1948 in Cuba) is a Cuban-born saxophonist and clarinetist who plays jazz and classical music.

Early life and education

Paquito Francisco D'Rivera was born in Havana, Cuba. His father played classical saxophone, entertained his son with Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman records, and he sold musical instruments. He took D'Rivera to clubs like the Tropicana (frequented by his musician friends and customers) and to concert bands and orchestras.[1]

At age five, D'Rivera began saxophone lessons by his father. In 1960 he attended the Havana Conservatory of Music, where he learned saxophone and clarinet and met Chucho Valdés.[2] In 1965, he was a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He and Valdés founded Orchestra Cubana de Musica Moderna and then in 1973 the group Irakere, which fused jazz, rock, classical, and Cuban music.[3]


By 1980, D'Rivera had become dissatisfied with the constraints placed on his music in Cuba for many years. In an interview with ReasonTV, D'Rivera recalled that the Cuban communist government described jazz and rock and roll as "imperialist" music that was officially discouraged in the 1960s/70s, and that a meeting with Che Guevara sparked his desire to leave Cuba.[4] In early 1981, while on tour in Spain, he sought asylum with the American Embassy, leaving his wife and child behind, with a promise to bring them out of Cuba.

Upon his arrival in the United States, D'Rivera found great support for him and his family. His mother, Maura, and his sister, Rosario, had left Cuba in 1968 and became US citizens. Maura had worked in the US in the fashion industry for many years, and Rosario had become a respected artist/entrepreneur. He was introduced to the jazz scene at some prestigious clubs and concert halls in New York. He became something of a phenomenon after the release of his first two solo albums, Paquito Blowin' (June 1981) and Mariel (July 1982).

In 2005, D'Rivera wrote a letter criticizing musician Carlos Santana for his decision to wear a T-shirt with the image of Che Guevara on it to the 2005 Academy Awards, citing Guevara's role in the execution of counter-revolutionaries in Cuba, including his own cousin.[5]

Performing and recording

D'Rivera has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall and played with the National Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, Bronx Arts Ensemble, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, Costa Rican Symphony Orchestra, American Youth Philharmonic, and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout his career in the United States, D'Rivera's albums have received reviews from critics and have hit the top of the jazz charts. His albums have shown a progression that demonstrates his extraordinary abilities in bebop, classical and Latin/Caribbean music. D'Rivera's expertise transcends musical genres as he is the only artist to ever have won Grammy Awards in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories.[6]

D'Rivera was a judge for the 5th and 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.[7]

Paquito D'Rivera with the Trio Corrente 2015 at the Horizonte world music festival at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Paquito D'Rivera Quintet

The band backing D'Rivera consists of Peruvian bassist Oscar Stagnaro, Argentinean trumpeter Diego Urcola, American drummer Mark Walker, and pianist Alex Brown.[8] As a whole they are named the "Paquito D'Rivera Quintet"[8] and under this name they were awarded the Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album for the album Live at the Blue Note in 2001.[9]

Personal life

D'Rivera resides in North Bergen, New Jersey.[10]

Grammy Awards


U.S. President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts on 9 November 2005, in the Oval Office.



As sideman or guest


As sideman or guest



As sideman

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Lalo Schifrin


  1. Cohen, Anat (22 April 2015). "Jazz Departments: Jazz Is a Blessing: An Interview with Paquito D'Rivera". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. Collins, Catherine; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). Kernfeld, Barry, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 655. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  3. Harris, Craig. "Paquito D'Rivera | Biography & History". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  4. "Hollywood's Sick Love Affair with Che Guevara",; accessed November 16, 2014.
  5. D'Rivera criticizes Carlos Santana over Che Guevara T-shirt,; accessed November 16, 2014.
  6. "Paquito D'Rivera Biography". Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
  7. Independent Music Awards – Past Judges,; accessed November 16, 2014.
  8. 1 2 "Paquito D'Rivera Quintet – The Band". Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  9. Harrigan, Tom (October 31, 2001). "Alejandro Sanz tops list of Latin Grammy Awards winners". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  10. Heinis, John. "Paquito D'Rivera, other Latin legends see their stars unveiled in ceremony at Celia Cruz Plaza in Union City", The Jersey Journal, June 1, 2012. Accessed September 10, 2015. "Global icon Paquito D'Rivera, 63, a seven-time Grammy-award winner, received a star yesterday. The reed man, known mostly for his high-flying Latin jazz music, moved to the United States from Cuba in 1980. He currently resides in North Bergen."
  11. 1 2 "Paquito D'Rivera | Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  12. "2013 Best Latin Jazz Album". GRAMMY Awards.
  13. "2014 Best Latin Jazz Album". 15th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
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