Saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera was born in Cuba. He began his musical studies at the age of five and at the age six was already performing with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. In 1967, D'Rivera and pianist Chucho Valdes founded the renowned Orquestra Cubana de Musica Moderna, which he subsequently conducted for two years.
Eight of the younger, more adventurous members of the Orchestra eventually formed Irakere, a group that made history as the first Cuban musicians to record for an American label after Fidel Castro took power. By 1980, though, D'Rivera was dissatisfied with the constraints placed on his music in Cuba and, in early 1981, while on tour in Spain, he sought asylum at the American Embassy and left his homeland forever. Upon his arrival in the United States, D'Rivera was helped by many people; in particular, Dizzy Gillespie, David Amram, Mario Bauza and Bruce Lundvall, who gave him his first solo recording date.
Throughout D'Rivera's career in the United States, his 20+ albums have received rave reviews from critics and he has received numerous distinctions, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991 for his contribution to Latin music. D'Rivera also won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Performance for his Chesky release, Portraits of Cuba.
In addition to winning numerous awards, D'Rivera has worked as a producer on other musicians' albums and performed with numerous orchestras. He tours regularly all over the world, both solo and with ensembles such as Triangulo, the Paquito D'Rivera Big Band, and the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet.