Years ago, the Cuban jazz clarinettist Paquito D'Rivera received a fan letter which bore no return address. The writer even chose not to include his surname, identifying himself only by the name 'Yeyito'. Nevertheless, Paquito D'Rivera began to jot down Letters to Yeyito, hoping that one day he would be able to contact his mysterious correspondent.
Letters to Yeyito is described on the cover as a memoir and a guidebook. A more precise description would be that the book is a collection of anecdotes, opinions and advice, all linked to the life of Paquito D'Rivera. The book has no illustrations and no musical examples. The assumption seems to have been that readers will not be musically literate. There is no index, alas. The edition received as a review copy has not been proof-read.
The latter omission puts the reviewer in a bind. That is, does one comment on the incorrect spelling of Aaron Copland's name, or the changing of Frank Wess into Frank Weiss? Does one notice the mismatch between the title as printed on the book's spine (Letters to Yeyio), or the title on the front cover (Letters to Yeyito)? About these glitches it is better to be optimistic. One makes the assumption that such slips will be corrected before the book goes on sale.
Letters to Yeyito is an easy read, brief, positive and sunny in tone. As you'd expect, Paquito's writing conveys a Cuban viewpoint, which is refreshing. Here are brief anecdotes and opinions about Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Tito Puente, Phil Woods and others. Beyond the jazz world there is mention of Yo-Yo Ma, the French-born Chinese American cellist, the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, and the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
For those interested in contemporary Cuban music, this publication fills a gap.
John Robert Brown