Sunday, July 12, 2015

Humorous jazz

A year ago I had the immense pleasure of seeing Paquito D'Rivera at the Regattabar in Cambridge. This year, once again, I was amazed by this clarinetist/ saxophonist/ bandleader when he came back to Regattabar. Paquito played songs off of his album "Jazz Meets The Classics" and brought everyone to tears with his humor.

Mark Walker and Paquito D'Rivera (L to R)

Humorous jazz

Much like last year, Paquito reinterpreted classic songs, such as "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and the "Mozart Clarinet Concerto". These classical songs and familiar melodies serve as not only a great jazz arrangement, but as a base for vibrant improvisation. Listen to this episode of "Piano Jazz" to learn more about Paquito.

Listen to an orchestra playing, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy":

Paquito's superior musicianship complements his masterful humor. Paquito coyly claimed that Mozart was from New Orleans and Yo Yo Ma was actually Yo Yo Martinez to prove his point that classical music can flow with Latin jazz. He got the audience erupting in laughter with these jokes, creating a light and cheery atmosphere.

Listen to Duke Ellington's arrangement of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy":

Musically, Paquito's solos were virtuosic, logical and easy for the ear to follow from the melody. Joyful and ecstatic, his clean, tuneful lines not only complemented the full band, but served as the lead in a constant interplay between the musicians. Spontaneous throughout the entire song, Paquito would stop and make clever comments to the audience such as "I'm reading from the original score" when he played a bluesy line over the "Mozart Clarinet Concerto". 
Paquito D'Rivera entertaining the audience

Watch Paquito perform from, "Jazz Meets the Classics":

Paquito no doubt learned much of his humor from his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy not only brought in the age of bebop and popularized Afro-Cuban jazz, but he was known as a expert entertainer. His humor is carried on by the musicians he taught, as well as the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, which my dad wrote a guest-blog about last November.

Watch Dizzy Gillespie 'introduce the musicians' in his band with the song "Mmm Hmm":

Concerts are not only a musical experience, they are entertainment and an escape from the daily grind. Joking with people, making them laugh, while also capturing joy and freedom in the music makes for an unforgettable experience. 

Watch Paquito perform with Dizzy in "Seresta-Samba for Carmen":

Final Thoughts:
My sketch of Paquito D'Rivera
Classics or modern, old or new, I think humor is what makes jazz connect with you. 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! This week inspired my poem, "When I hear a song".

With the summer here make sure you take advantage of great jazz festivals including the Newport Jazz Festival with $20 student tickets. WGBO is also offering busses to and from Berklee to the festival for anyone to make travel simple. 

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