Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from a Life in Music


Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from a Life in Music


by Paquito D'Rivera

Translated from the Spanish by Rosario Moreno

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.

Book Details

Paperback List Price: $15.99 • ISBN: 9781632060198 • Publication: 11/10/15 • 5.5” x 8.25” • 240 pages • Memoir: Music / Jazz Musicians / Cuban • Territory: World English • eBook ISBN: 9781632060648

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About the Book

Early in his career, when he was making a name for himself in Havana as the founder and bandleader of the popular Cuban Orchestra of Modern Music, Paquito D’Rivera received an ardent letter from a young aspiring musician who wanted to know how to forge a musical career. The letter was signed “Yeyito,” but there was no return address. Over the decades, as D’Rivera’s own career and legend grew, that letter always stuck with him. Finally, he decided to respond to Yeyito and the other music lovers he’s met in a series of letters about his life—about persevering under Castro’s brand of socialism for years before defecting to New York; collaborating with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Yo-Yo Ma, and other greats; and lessons learned during his six-decade-long journey in the arts.

Written with the imagination and trademark exuberance that D’Rivera has brought to his music, Letters to Yeyito combines the wildness and lyricism of Charles Mingus’s classic Beneath the Underdog with the heartfelt guidance and missionary zeal of Wynton Marsalis’s To a Young Jazz Musician, making for an immensely appealing read for music aficionados and casual listeners alike.



“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.’ “


“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.”


“A renaissance man of Cuban music… a charming and talented writer… Like a good jazz player, D'Rivera has developed his own unique voice and style as a writer as well, which is part of the strength and appeal of his previous works and this new one.… Forthright, irreverent, funny and thoughtful, D'Rivera doesn't mince words, nor he allow bitterness (particularly over events in Castro's Cuba) to overwhelm the joy he finds in life, travel, people and music.… A delightful, engrossing, and illuminating read that provides a glimpse into the life of one of the finest working Latin jazz musicians, and a chance to spend time in his captivating company.”

KMUW FM 89.1

"The upbeat nonfiction piece offers an enthralling tour of D'Rivera lengthy career."

The Latin Post

“Hilarious.… 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.… 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.”

Matt’s Stats

Read an interview with the author in DownBeat magazine


About the Author

Cuban-born clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera is celebrated for his artistry in Latin jazz and achievements in classical composition. He has received fourteen Grammys, the NEA Jazz Masters Award, and the National Medal of the Arts, among many others, and is the only artist to have won Grammys in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories. His numerous recordings include more than thirty solo albums. He lives in New Jersey.


About the Translator

Rosario Moreno is a Cuban-born bilingual translator, writer, creative director, and executive producer. A U.S. Hispanic Market Specialist, she has worked for both the Univision and Telemundo networks and produced over one hundred TV commercials and programs, as well as numerous advertising and merchandising campaigns. She translates both from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English.


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