Habanera

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Enja
ALBUM TITLE: Paquito D’rivera
PERFORMER: Paquito D’Rivera (cl, as), David Taylor (btb), Kenny Drew Jr (p), Michael Formanek (b), Clarence Penn (d), Mino Cinelu (perc); Absolute Ensemble/Kristjan Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: ENJ 9395-2

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One of the dilemmas facing any mature and reasonably prolific record-maker is context: how many discs does the world need of good-natured, high-energy blowing, which is expat Cuban D’Rivera’s main stock-in-trade?

So this time he goes back to roots his admirers may have never realised he had. Producer Daniel Schnyder’s own classics-meets-jazz projects have always sounded too arch to me, but he gets the tone just right as a setting for D’Rivera’s Romantic ebullience on clarinet and alto sax.

A crack rhythm section plays expertly where it’s required, but the most gorgeous music comes in miniatures such as the title piece, a feelingful original for clarinet and strings, and the Euro-Cuban exotica of ‘Wapango’.

The Absolute Ensemble brings old-world dignity and finesse to proceedings – enough to ensure that D’Rivera doesn’t ham things up too much – and he in return punctures the hubris of Schnyder’s ‘Variations On I Got Rhythm and Cuban Overture’ and lets it swing and have fun.

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The closing clarinet soliloquy of ‘Lecuonerias’ makes a delightful farewell. Paquito’s best record by a country mile. Richard Cook