Paquito D’Rivera’s "Habanera" is a seamless synthesis of jazz and classical ensembles using the compositions of Ellington, Gershwin, Gillespie, and his own. It is a successful brew because it swings. It is not stilted; it is not stodgy. It is extraordinary music that is very accessible and appealing. This is one of those albums that as soon as you hear it, you like it.
‘Afro’ somehow combines African sounds with Peruvian-like music and contemporary classical music by Lou Harrison. It is exquisite. "Habanera’ is reminiscent of a score by Claude Debussy and features the Absolute Ensemble.
Gillespie’s ‘Birks Works’ adheres to a danceable delicate Latin beat with D’Rivera smoothly leading on his clarinet. Glorious.
There are a series of Gershwin pieces that are arranged by Franco D’Rivera or rewritten by Daniel Schnyder. The ‘Three Preludes’ should be familiar to and appreciated by most Gershwin fans. The playing is both saucy and sexy. The ‘Variations on I Got Rhythm and Cuban Overture’ are also beautiful and inventive renditions. The other recent jazz album that interprets Gershwin so well is Marcus Roberts’ "Portraits in Blue" completed in 1996.
D’Rivera’s ‘Wapango’ has an Old World feeling of a marching band winding down a steep cobbled street in a remote village. Backed by bass and drums, pianist Kenny Drew, Jr. plays an impassioned and slightly hyper (or Bebop) version of the classic Ellington composition, ‘Caravan.’
This album should get the widest possible exposure because of the beauty and imagination of the music.