"I want to do a variety of different styles," D'Rivera said. "Jersey City is a diverse community that appreciates jazz."
The next "Paquito Series" concert is on April 17, and it will feature a set titled "Rivers" inspired by the works of poets Jose Maria Eredia, Julia de Burgos, and Langston Hughes. "Rivers," composed by D'Rivera in 1998, is a combination of traditional American jazz with a Latin twist.
After "Rivers," the spring "Paquito Series" concerts will end May 8 with another D'Rivera original composition "Song for Peace." The show will feature soprano Brenda Feliciano.
D'Rivera brought saxophonist Oscar Feldman to his series's first concert on Feb. 27. More than 75 people attended the event. Feldman's quartet was smooth, entertaining and upbeat. They opened their set with a tribute to Duke Ellington. Feldman then played a couple of originals from his new album The Angel and swing standards as encores. D'Rivera jumped in a few times for electrifying clarinet solos. He controlled the clarinet flawlessly and Feldman's band responded to his vibe with unexpected improvisations.
"Feldman is such a good musician. More people should know his music," D'Rivera said.
Hudsonites will have to wait until the fall for the next D'Rivera concert series in Jersey City. This summer he will tour internationally with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and other musicians.
"The best part about my career is the opportunity to chat with other people," D'Rivera said. "The music business, with contracts and lawyers, is very boring. Once I play on stage, everything is perfect."
Born in Cuba, D'Rivera's was a child prodigy, playing the clarinet and the saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, where he premiered several shows by notable Cuban composers.
He was one of the founding members of the Orquestra Cubana de Musica Moderna and co-director of the innovative musical group Irakere. With explosive mixtures of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban harmonies, Irakere created a unique sound. They toured North America and Europe in the late '70s, and D'Rivera earned a Grammy with the band. He would collect two more Grammies for the albums Portraits of Cuba and Tropicana Nights. He credits the works of Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dizzy Gillespie as his influences.
"I see myself as an ambassador of Latin jazz," said D'Rivera. "Everyday American music is more connected to Latin music."
His impressive discography includes more than 30 solo albums in jazz, bebop, and Latin genres. He has also headlined The Brooklyn, London, Royal and Florida Philharmonic Orchestras, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, the St. Luke's Chamber Orchestra, the Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. His personal ensembles include the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D'Rivera Big Band and the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet
In addition to his extraordinary performing career, he has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. His works often reveal his versatility and widespread influences, which range from Afro-Cuban to modern jazz. Last year D'Rivera was commissioned by The National Symphony Orchestra to coordinate a concerto for flutist Marina Piccinini under maestro Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
In addition to music, D'Rivera enjoys writing. A few years ago he wrote My Saxual Life, published by Seix Barral from Spain. The book is an account of D'Rivera's journey from his homeland to life in America. This year he expects to finish En Tus Brazos Morenos (In Your Dark Arms), a fiction novel about Cuba's nightlife in the '50s and '60s.
"I like to write. There's a freedom in writing like in jazz," he said.
Jersey City Museum public relations manager Linda Onorevole is enjoying D'Rivera's company at the museum. "We were looking to start a music series in our new auditorium, and the first person I thought of was Paquito," Onorevole said. "The auditorium is a beautiful space and a great place to enjoy Paquito's music."
D'Rivera's talents will attract many people to the museum, Onorevole added. He has lived in North Bergen for more than 15 years. He likes the proximity to New York City and the community.
"I'm close enough to the jungle and still far away," he said.
The April 17 concert starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. For information on the "Paquito Series," contact the museum at (201) 413-0303 or visit www.jerseycitymuseum.org. The museum is located at 350 Montgomery St. For information on D'Rivera visit www.paquitodrivera.com.