Paquito D'Rivera

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Paquito D'Rivera
D'Rivera in 2022
D'Rivera in 2022
Background information
Birth nameFrancisco de Jesús Rivera Figueras
Born (1948-06-04) 4 June 1948 (age 75)
Havana, Cuba
GenresAfro-Cuban jazz, songo, classical
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, bandleader
Instrument(s)Alto saxophone, clarinet
Years active1965–present
LabelsSunnyside, Paquito Records
Paquito D'Rivera at the Village Gate

Francisco de Jesús Rivera Figueras (born 4 June 1948), known as Paquito D'Rivera, is a Cuban-American alto saxophonist, clarinetist and composer. He was a member of the Cuban songo band Irakere and, since the 1980s, he has established himself as a bandleader in the United States. His smooth saxophone tone and his frequent combination of Latin jazz and classical music have become his trademarks.[1]

Early life[edit]

Francisco de Jesús Rivera Figueras was born on 4 June 1948 in Havana, Cuba.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] In 1965, he was a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He and Valdés founded Orchestra Cubana de Música Moderna and then in 1973 the group Irakere, which fused jazz, rock, classical, and Cuban music.[1]


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.[5] In early 1980, 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.[citation needed]

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 and entrepreneur. Paquito 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).[6]

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.[7]


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 Rica National Symphony, American Youth Philharmonic, and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.[8][9]

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.[10]

D'Rivera was a judge for the 5th and 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.[11]

Paquito D'Rivera with the Trio Corrente at the 2015 Horizonte World Music Festival at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Paquito D'Rivera Quintet[edit]

The band backing D'Rivera consists of Peruvian bassist Oscar Stagnaro, Argentinean trumpeter Diego Urcola, American drummer Mark Walker, and pianist Alex Brown. As a whole they are named the "Paquito D'Rivera Quintet"[12] 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.[13]

Personal life[edit]

D'Rivera resides in North Bergen, New Jersey.[14] In 2001 D'Rivera purchased a $750,000 colonial-style home, which is located on Boulevard East, overlooking the Hudson River. In September 2023, he put the home up for sale for $1.75 million.[15]

Honors and awards[edit]

D'Rivera (third from left) stands alongside other recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, and U.S. President George W. Bush, in the Oval Office on 9 November 2005.

Grammy Awards[edit]


D'Rivera in 2013

As leader[edit]

  • Blowin (Columbia, 1981)
  • Mariel (Columbia, 1982)
  • Live at Keystone Korner (Columbia, 1983)
  • Why Not! (Columbia, 1984)
  • Explosion (Columbia, 1986)
  • A Tribute to Cal Tjader (Yemaya, 1986)
  • Manhattan Burn (Columbia, 1987)
  • Celebration (Columbia, 1988)
  • Tico! Tico! (Chesky, 1989)
  • Return to Ipanema (Town Crier, 1989)
  • Reunion (Messidor, 1991)
  • Havana Cafe (Chesky, 1992)
  • Who's Smoking?! (Candid, 1992)
  • La Habana-Rio-Conexion (Messidor, 1992)
  • Paquito D'Rivera Presents 40 Years of Cuban Jam Session (Messidor, 1993)
  • A Night in Englewood (Messidor, 1994)
  • Portraits of Cuba (Chesky, 1996)
  • Live at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG, 1997)
  • Hay Solucion (BMG, 1998)
  • 100 Years of Latin Love Songs (Heads Up, 1998)
  • Tropicana Nights (Chesky, 1999)
  • Habanera (Enja, 2000)
  • The Clarinetist Volume One (Peregrina, 2001)
  • Brazilian Dreams (MCG, 2002)
  • Este Camino Largo (Yemaya, 2002)
  • The Lost Sessions (Yemaya, 2002)
  • Big Band Time (Pimienta, 2003)
  • The Jazz Chamber Trio (Chesky, 2005)
  • Benny Goodman Revisited (Connector, 2009)
  • Quartier Latin (LKY, 2009)
  • Panamericana Suite (MCG Jazz, 2010)
  • Tango Jazz (Paquito, 2010)
  • Song for Maura (Sunnyside/Paquito, 2013)
  • Jazz Meets the Classics (Paquito, 2014)
  • Aires Tropicales (Sunnyside/Paquito, 2015)[19]
  • Paquito & Manzanero (Sunnyside/Paquito, 2016)[20]
  • I Missed You Too! (Sunnyside/Paquito Records, 2022)[21]

As sideman[edit]

With Diego Urcola Quartet

  • El Duelo (Sunnyside, 2020)

With David Amram

  • Havana/New York (Flying Fish, 1978)
  • Latin Jazz Celebration (Elektra Musician, 1983)

With Mario Bauza

  • Afro-Cuban Jazz (Caiman, 1986)
  • Tanga (Messidor, 1992)

With Caribbean Jazz Project

  • The Caribbean Jazz Project (Heads Up, 1995)
  • Island Stories (Heads Up, 1997)
  • The Gathering (Concord Picante, 2002)
  • Mosaic (Concord Picante, 2006)

With Gloria Estefan

  • Mi Tierra (Epic, 1993)
  • Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (Epic, 1994)

With Carlos Franzetti

  • Prometheus (Audiophile, 1984)
  • New York Toccata (Verve, 1985)

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Conrad Herwig

  • Another Kind of Blue (Half Note, 2004)
  • Sketches of Spain y Mas (Half Note, 2006)

With Irakere

  • Irakere (Columbia, 1979)
  • Chekere Son (JVC, 1979)
  • 2 (Columbia, 1979)

With Yo-Yo Ma

  • Obrigado Brazil (Sony Classical, 2003)
  • Obrigado Brazil Live in Concert (Sony Classical, 2004)
  • Appassionato (Sony Classical, 2007)
  • Songs of Joy & Peace (Sony Classical, 2008)

With Andy Narell

  • The Passage (Heads Up, 2004)
  • University of Calypso (Heads Up, 2009)

With Daniel Ponce

  • New York Now! (Celluloid, 1983)
  • Arawe (Antilles, 1987)

With Claudio Roditi

  • Red on Red (CTI, 1984)
  • Milestones (Candid, 1992)

With Lalo Schifrin

With Bebo Valdés

  • Bebo Rides Again (Messidor, 1995)
  • El Arte del Sabor (Blue Note, 2001)
  • Suite Cubana (Calle 54, 2009)

With others


  1. ^ a b Harris, Craig. "Paquito D'Rivera Biography by Craig Harris". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ D'Rivera, Paquito (4 November 2008). My Sax Life: A Memoir. Northwestern University Press. pp. 152, 164. ISBN 978-0-8101-2524-7.
  3. ^ Cohen, Anat (22 April 2015). "Jazz Departments: Jazz Is a Blessing: An Interview with Paquito D'Rivera". JazzTimes. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  4. ^ Collins, Catherine; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 655. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  5. ^ "Hollywood's Sick Love Affair with Che Guevara",; accessed 16 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Grammy Award winner Paquito D'Rivera endorses Scotch Plains saxophone manufacturer". Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  7. ^ D'Rivera criticizes Carlos Santana over Che Guevara T-shirt,; accessed 16 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Biography – Paquito D'Rivera". Paquito D'Rivera. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  9. ^ "YOA ORCHESTRA OF THE AMERICAS" (PDF). Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Paquito D'Rivera Biography". Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  11. ^ "Past Judges". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Paquito D'Rivera Quintet – The Band". Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  13. ^ Harrigan, Tom (31 October 2001). "Alejandro Sanz tops list of Latin Grammy Awards winners". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  14. ^ Heinis, John (1 June 2012). "Paquito D'Rivera, other Latin legends see their stars unveiled in ceremony at Celia Cruz Plaza in Union City". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved 10 September 2015. Global icon Paquito D'Rivera, 63...moved to the United States from Cuba in 1980. He currently resides in North Bergen.
  15. ^ McGay, Maddie (27 September 2023). "Jazz legend and Grammy award winner puts North Bergen home up for sale for $1.75 million". Archived from the original on 28 September 2023. Retrieved 27 September 2023.
  16. ^ a b "Paquito D'Rivera | Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  17. ^ "2013 Best Latin Jazz Album". GRAMMY Awards. 30 April 2017.
  18. ^ "2014 Best Latin Jazz Album". 15th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Aires Tropicales – Paquito D'Rivera and Quinteto Cimarron".
  20. ^ "Paquito D'Rivera: Paquito & Manzanero". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  21. ^ "I Missed You Too! – Chucho Valdés and Paquito D'Rivera Reunion Sextet".

External links[edit]