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Jazz Caliente: The Reunion of Two Cuban Jazz Masters

Paquito D' Rivera with clarinet
courtesy of the arist
Paquito D' Rivera with clarinet

The music of saxophonist/clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera and trumpeter/pianist Arturo Sandoval has been censored from Cuban airwaves for decades now,  since they both defected to the U.S.  

Band mates in the groundbreaking Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and founding members of the legendary Cuban group Irakere, both musicians took advantage of world tours to make their escape.  Both have also gone on to make incredibly successful international careers, but still, it has to hurt to know that your name has been erased from your native country's cultural history.

Paquito went first, in 1980, while Irakere was on tour in Spain.  He packed a suitcase with sticks, stones and an old pair of boots, checked it on the plane the band was taking back to Cuba, but he never boarded.  He also never looked back.  Paquito is unreservedly anti-Castro, and is outspoken about Communist Cuba (and many other things)  in his entertaining books My Sax Life and Letters to Yeyito.

Album cover "Reunion"
Credit messidor musik GmbH, 1991
Album cover "Reunion"

Arturo made his move about ten years later, when he got permission for his wife and son to join him during a European tour with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra.  His life in Cuba and his daring defection is well-documented (and maybe just a tiny bit romanticized) in the HBO film For Love or Country.

Paquito and Arturo got together in Germany in 1990 to make a great recording appropriately called "Reunion." The title track, written especially for the occasion, now serves as our Saturday Jazz Caliente theme song.

Here are the two friends in a video filmed for TV Martí in Cuba, probably late 1970s, with Edward Simon on piano, Sergio Brandão on bass and Ignacio Berroa on drums.  

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.  The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.