Members of GW’s Latin Band jammed with world-renowned musician Paquito D’Rivera as he led a “master class” in jazz to a crowd of about 50 people in Phillips Hall early Friday afternoon.
The master class gave the audience a chance to observe the nine-time Grammy Award winner, known for merging Latin music with jazz and classical traditions, in a casual classroom setting. The event kicked off with a performance by D’Rivera and members of his band.
“When you teach, you learn more,” he said. “I thank God to be a musician. It’s a blessing to be a musician.”
He stressed subtlety and, in the case of big ensembles, learning when to bow out to make the music flow better.
After D’Rivera performed, the GW Latin Band took to the stage.
The group is a 15-member ensemble specializing in arranging jazz and popular music in Brazilian, Mexican, and Cuban styles. The ensemble is co-directed by professors Alejandro Lucini, a percussionist, and Peter Fraize, a saxophonist.
Emma Morse, a sophomore member of the Latin Band who plays alto saxophone, said the experience to share a stage with and be coached by D’Rivera was especially inspirational for her, because she has been a long-time fan.
“I played his songs in high school,” Morse said.
She added, “It was incredible. I’ve only heard him on recordings before, I’ve never seen him in concert so you kind of have that distant connection with him through music, but seeing him up there puts a face to everything.”
The event was part of the fourth annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, which runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7. The festival, named for D.C. native and jazz legend Duke Ellington, features numerous local, national and international artists from venues all around D.C., including the Kennedy Center, numerous venues on U Street and the National Gallery Sculpture Garden.
Morse said she plans on attending other festival events, such as those at the nearby Kennedy Center, and added that the vibrancy of the jazz scene in the District is particularly appealing.
“I’m from Maine and there’s no jazz scene there whatsoever so being in D.C. is really cool because we have everything going on here,” Morse said.
Sophomore Kathryn Boland admitted she does not know much about jazz, but said she has attended previous improvisational jazz sessions in Phillips and came away from the show with a newfound appreciation for D’Rivera.
She said, “It was brilliant. He’s so talented.”