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Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from A Life in Music

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A captivating memoir from one of jazz's most beloved practitioners, fourteen-time Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera's Letters to Yeyito is a fascinating tour of a life lived in music, and a useful guidebook for aspiring artists everywhere. Years after receiving a fan letter with no return address, Latin jazz legend Paquito D' Rivera began to write Letters to Yeyito in the hope A captivating memoir from one of jazz's most beloved practitioners, fourteen-time Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera's Letters to Yeyito is a fascinating tour of a life lived in music, and a useful guidebook for aspiring artists everywhere. Years after receiving a fan letter with no return address, Latin jazz legend Paquito D' Rivera began to write Letters to Yeyito in the hope of reaching its author, a would-be musician. In the course of advising his Cuban compatriot on love, life, and musicianship, D'Rivera recounts his own six-decade-long journey in the arts. After persevering under Castro's brand of socialism for years, D'Rivera defected from Cuba and left his beloved Havana for that other great city: New York. From there, the saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer launched a dazzling, and still very active, career that has included fourteen Grammys, world tours, and extensive collaboration with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Yo-Yo Ma, and other music legends who make cameos in these pages. Full of humor, entertaining anecdotes, expert advice, and the musician,s characteristic exuberance, D'Rivera's story is one of life on the move and finding a home in music.


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A captivating memoir from one of jazz's most beloved practitioners, fourteen-time Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera's Letters to Yeyito is a fascinating tour of a life lived in music, and a useful guidebook for aspiring artists everywhere. Years after receiving a fan letter with no return address, Latin jazz legend Paquito D' Rivera began to write Letters to Yeyito in the hope A captivating memoir from one of jazz's most beloved practitioners, fourteen-time Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera's Letters to Yeyito is a fascinating tour of a life lived in music, and a useful guidebook for aspiring artists everywhere. Years after receiving a fan letter with no return address, Latin jazz legend Paquito D' Rivera began to write Letters to Yeyito in the hope of reaching its author, a would-be musician. In the course of advising his Cuban compatriot on love, life, and musicianship, D'Rivera recounts his own six-decade-long journey in the arts. After persevering under Castro's brand of socialism for years, D'Rivera defected from Cuba and left his beloved Havana for that other great city: New York. From there, the saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer launched a dazzling, and still very active, career that has included fourteen Grammys, world tours, and extensive collaboration with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Yo-Yo Ma, and other music legends who make cameos in these pages. Full of humor, entertaining anecdotes, expert advice, and the musician,s characteristic exuberance, D'Rivera's story is one of life on the move and finding a home in music.

35 review for Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from A Life in Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I recently had the great privilege to see Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers in concert, presenting a tribute to Irakere, the legendary group of which Paquito D’Rivera was also a founding member. In a chapter (letter) dedicated to Chucho’s father Bebo, D’Rivera describes the pianist as "one of my closest friends and collaborators as well as one of the most positive influences on my career.” Even without this connection, I was excited to read this great musician’s own words. I didn’t kno I recently had the great privilege to see Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers in concert, presenting a tribute to Irakere, the legendary group of which Paquito D’Rivera was also a founding member. In a chapter (letter) dedicated to Chucho’s father Bebo, D’Rivera describes the pianist as "one of my closest friends and collaborators as well as one of the most positive influences on my career.” Even without this connection, I was excited to read this great musician’s own words. I didn’t know this, but “Letters to Yeyito” is not the saxophonist and clarinetist’s first book: he has also written “My Sax Life” and a novel, “Oh, La Habana!” These letters to a lost fan more than stand alone; this is a fully realized book where Paquito shares almost encyclopedic knowledge of the music world. He gives us a history of jazz and especially Latin jazz, including the contributions from Latin America and other parts of the world that are often forgotten in other chronicles. Indeed, one of his goals with this book was just that, and the result is, in my opinion, one of the best music memoirs yet. Paquito is not only a great musician, but a great writer too. It is not surprising he admires literature greatly, given his writing. One chapter, or letter, covers some of his literary influences, and the other letters tell his stories in themes that try to answer Yeyo’s questions, not only giving advice to an admiring musician but sharing the fun. He talks about his love of travel and some places that have special meaning for him. In keeping with Latin American literature, perhaps unintentionally, it is not always exactly clear when or where he is writing from. There are plenty of clues, but the details I paid more attention to are the many songs he thinks of. In reading, it’s almost like everyone has their own theme song. I made a playlist, also “Letters to Yeyito,” on Spotify that includes the songs I could find, but this only scratches the surface of the deep, rich world of music Paquito has been a part of. One of the first hilarious stories is that of Dizzy Gillespie and his mysterious necklace, which no one knew exactly what it was. If you go to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., take a look at Dizzy’s portrait. The trumpeter was a founding pillar of jazz and Afro-Cuban music, and a mentor to Paquito as well. And, so “peculiar” was their meeting that D’Rivera includes a short story, part-true, in keeping with the magic realism. Coming from Cuba, the use of a ration card in a communist country plays a role, and contraband meat is mentioned more than once. Other musicians or writers provide brief contributions for this book, and Paquito cites great advice from the recently passed Phil Woods on the true test of what it takes to be a professional musician. He gives his own thoughts on originality as a musician, and finding one’s musical voice. Yeyito being Cuban too, he also makes clear the challenges with a foreign language. Even José Martí reputedly once mispronounced Shakespeare’s name, but he has left perhaps more influence on Cuban culture than any other individual. Jazz itself is defined throughout the book, by Leopold Tyrmand and others – even totalitarians opposed to this music. Much can be learned about Latin jazz, and the lives of other musicians are just as historical. I had no idea, for example, that Astor Piazzolla “when not making music, flew to Punta del Este to hunt sharks only to return them to the sea,” which might explain his composition “Escualo.” I even learned the scientific name of the plant used for musical instrument reeds (Arundo donax). Paquito even mentions musicians who don’t play instruments, but love the music and contribute in their own way. This is a fun and entertaining book, and its author was thoughtful in reaching out to Yeyito and readers elsewhere, a joyful celebration of life and music. Note: a copy of this title was generously provided by Restless Books in exchange for an honest review. For more reviews, see my blog: http://matt-stats.blogspot.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I had never heard of this musician until I read this book. It was a very interesting read. It really made me want to go out and listen to his music and enjoy his artistry. I highly recommend this well written book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Olms

    Great book

  4. 4 out of 5

    Restless Books

    “D’Rivera’s poetic prose (nicely translated from the Spanish by Rosario Moreno) richly conveys the deep respect and true love he has for the contributions of [Bola de Nieve, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bebo Valdés]. D’Rivera’s writerly gifts blossom most vividly in his earthy depictions of life as a working and touring performer.… After enjoying this literary journey/lesson, the reader will be pleased with D’Rivera’s ultimate declaration: ‘While energy, health, and endurance are still with me, I’ll kee “D’Rivera’s poetic prose (nicely translated from the Spanish by Rosario Moreno) richly conveys the deep respect and true love he has for the contributions of [Bola de Nieve, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bebo Valdés]. D’Rivera’s writerly gifts blossom most vividly in his earthy depictions of life as a working and touring performer.… After enjoying this literary journey/lesson, the reader will be pleased with D’Rivera’s ultimate declaration: ‘While energy, health, and endurance are still with me, I’ll keep blowing these whistles I learned from my dad until my last breath.’ “ —JazzTimes “A terrific book.… I recommend it highly.… Each paragraph is a story in itself.… Very funny.… [Paquito D’Rivera is] a one-man party.… There is nobody more joyous.” —Michael Bourne, WBGO Jazz “One of the most promising sights in jazz is Paquito D'Rivera, coming your way with his clarinet bag over his shoulder. Chances are he's smiling and going to make you happy, too. Yet joyful and funny as he is, D'Rivera takes his hard-won musical freedom seriously.” —NPR

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

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    thomas

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    Frederick Rotzien

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    Katie Jones

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    Kelley

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