"I'm very proud to be from here," said D'Rivera, who lived in Weehawken for 15 years before moving to North Bergen three years ago. "I always love to come back home to perform. I never like tuxedos anyway, so this way, I can play in my pajamas. It means a lot to me to be from here."
D'Rivera is one of the Board of Directors for the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC). The six-time Grammy award winner has been one of the driving forces behind the plan to see a 500-seat performing arts center built along the Hudson River in Weehawken.
He's been onboard with the project from its infant stages, and now will perform his second concert as part of the HRPAC's "Summer Concerts on the Hudson" series Saturday night, July 24, at Lincoln Harbor Park in Weehawken, beginning at 7 p.m. (Rain date will be the following evening).
"There are so many artists and musicians who live in northern New Jersey and have to go to New York to perform and work," said the Cuban-born D'Rivera, who has been busy traveling the globe recently, including a recent concert gig in Mexico. "Plus, there are so many jazz fans who live in New Jersey and have to take the ferry or the tunnel to get to New York to hear and see performances. It would be great to have our own performing arts center, where locals can have a place to perform. If we get this place built, it will be like my church."
D'Rivera, who is one of the most recognized performers in the Latin jazz world, has performed regularly with the famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and has captured six Grammy awards among the 31 albums he has recorded. He was recently named 2004 Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.
His autobiography, entitled "My Sax Life," was recently released by Northwestern University Press. A second book, a novel entitled "Oh, La Habana," will be published next year.
He has enjoyed a busy month of July, performing as part of the Youth Concert of the Americas in Mexico, and will perform this weekend at the Caramoor Festival in New York.
"I've been very busy, but it's been wonderful," D'Rivera said. "The Youth Orchestra was exciting, because they were the best kids in the entire continent, all coming together in one orchestra. Their enthusiasm was incredible and they were brilliant musicians."
But through his frantic-paced routine, he has set aside time to perform a free concert for his fans - right in the shadows of his front door.
D'Rivera, whose image has been spotted all over NJ Transit buses in promotions for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, where he also serves as an artist in residence, said that he loves the hectic schedule, especially working with the youth orchestra in Mexico.
Plans for the concert
D'Rivera said that he plans for the Weehawken concert to play a good variety of jazz and Latin-American music, with which he has become synonymous.
"I'm going to concentrate on the variety," D'Rivera said. "Because you never know who's going to be in the audience. Sometimes, you can play in front of 10 people, but one of those people could be the Queen of England. So every time I play, I play with the same enthusiasm. I hope that I can bring a big crowd. I think it's very important to get a lot of people there, to get them interested in what we're doing."
Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center Executive Director Bruce Sherman is excited that D'Rivera will grace the local audience once again. He says that you can't underestimate the value of having someone like D'Rivera being associated with his project.
"He is so well respected, both as a musician and as a person," Sherman said. "It's one thing for me to keep promoting the arts center, but when you have Paquito by your side, people listen."
D'Rivera and Sherman are appearing side by side again this week on the New Jersey Network news magazine series, "Images/Imagenes." The entire program focuses on D'Rivera's life and contributions, but he brings Sherman in for the second half to discuss their joint mission to build the arts center.
"It's a very entertaining program," Sherman said. "Besides being a great musician, Paquito is also a very funny man. I think he could have been a comedian if he weren't a musician."
The show featuring D'Rivera and Sherman will air Sunday, July 18, at 8 a.m. on NJN stations, and can also be seen on the internet by visiting www.njn.org.
"I can't wait for next Saturday's concert," Sherman said. "It was such a great event last year, one of the best concerts I've attended anywhere. Locals will have a great opportunity to see and hear a real New Jersey treasure. I sure hope they take advantage of it."
After D'Rivera's homecoming concert, he's back to the hectic pace once more, performing in concerts at Bryant Park in New York and the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel with the legendary Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops.
Meanwhile, there will be two other HRPAC concerts this summer, featuring the Holmes Brothers (Wed. Aug 4) and the doo-wop legends The Duprees (Wed. Aug. 25).
The Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center's presentation of the Paquito D'Rivera Ensemble will be held at the Lincoln Harbor Park in Weehawken, located just north of the UBS PaineWebber complex and about 100 yards north of the Chart House Restaurant, on Saturday, July 24, beginning at 7 p.m. Although some seating will be provided, fans are encouraged to bring their own lawn furniture. In case of rain, the concert will be rescheduled for Sunday, July 25, at the same time. For more information about the "Summer Concerts on the Hudson" series, call the hotline at (201) 716-4540 or log onto www.hrpac.org.