Sunday, June 25, 2006

Concert: Paquito D'Rivera Quintet, June 23, Winnipeg

Paquito D'Rivera Quintet / Robert Occhipinti Quintet
Jazz Winnipeg Festival
Friday, June 23, 2006
Manitoba Theatre Centre

As luck would have it, I bought a ticket in the afternoon and ended up in the front row for this show!

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Robert Occhipinti

Robert Occhipinti and his group are fairly unknown to me, but they have gained some notoriety in the Canadian jazz scene. His pianist, Hilario Duran, won a Juno and I believe Robert has, as well. Composer/producer Occhipinti is one of Canada's top bass players. I'm not as keen on straight-ahead jazz when the players are reading sheet music and this show helped me recall why. With sheet music, you get more structure and with more structure, the music just doesn't cook as much as I would have liked. Strong words, I know, to describe some of the finest talent around, but I know these players could have really smoked in a smaller group setting with far more spontaneous, combustible, playing. The benchmark for what I'm talking about was created by the McCoy Tyner Trio, earlier this week. Easily one the of most astonishing jazz performances that I've seen. As terrific the players were in Robert Occhipinti's band were, I wasn't elevated to that feeling of grandeur that jazz fans always seek - jazz heaven. I bought Occhipinti's cd Yemaya, which came out in 2005 and hope to get a better understanding of his music. He's also won Jazz Producer of the year twice now in Canada. I also bought a copy of Hilario Duran's latest cd. Rounding out Occhipinti's group were trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, saxophonist Phil Dwyer, and drummer Dafnis Prieto.

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Paquito D'Rivera is a very well known NY-based, Cuban-born sax player. The last time he was in town, if I recall correctly, he recorded an album with the Kerry Kluner Jazz Lab Band, at the West End Cultural Centre. Trumpeter Kluner, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, passed away a few years ago, but I was at this show, some 18 years ago.

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Paquito D'Rivera

Like the opening band, D'Rivera's group were superb players, but I didn't quite reach jazz heaven. In between songs, D'Rivera told stories about the inspiration behind the songs, paying tribute to Canadian Moe Koffman, among others. One of the songs was called Waltz For Moe, who D' Rivera fondly recalled with praise. At times, he swayed and danced a bit to the music which added to the non-serious atmosphere. As a special treat, they played a recently transcribed Dizzy Gillespie composition that was performed in Buenos Aires in the 1956 by the man himself. He wore a microphone, which allowed him to speak with amplification from anywhere on stage, but it also had the unintended feature of letting us hear every single inhale he took. For future shows, I'd recommend he not wear the mike. Paquito's show was a colorful palette of sound, with an emphasis on the rich musical tradition from Cuba and South America. Paquito does has a heavy accent but his charisma and jovial spirit is almost second to none in jazz. He's funny and very comfortable speaking in front of crowds, unlike a lot of players who keep their speaking to a bare minimum.

The audience really enjoyed both shows. Robert Occhipinti has a new legion of fans and Paquito has once again reminded fans why has been regarded as one of the most brilliant and entertaining saxophone players, for decades now.

My rating for this show is 4/5.

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