One collaboration begets another in the expanding world of acoustic music. This one was touched off by an insatiably curious classical cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, who first used Paquito D’Rivera and the brothers Sergio and Odair Assad separately on his “Brazil” album and then took all three on the tour that produced 2004’s “Obrigado Brazil” (both on Sony). The Cuban-born clarinetist and the two Brazilian guitarists obviously hit it off, and their well-matched, genre-bending interests eventually dovetailed perfectly in their tour stop Tuesday night at Royce Hall.
At first, this trio of Latin stars seemed to go too far over the top, with needlessly complex arrangements of “El Choclo” and “Aquarela do Brasil” in which everyone was flailing away at once. But as the evening progressed, there was more of a sense of give-and-take among the musicians in the arrangements, with the clarinet and guitars passing melody lines back and forth and with firmer backing rhythms. And things settled into a pocket before long.
For all of D’Rivera’s darting technique and the ability of the Assads to sound like a single 16-string instrument, the key to the evening’s success was the high level of material, drawn from nearly everywhere in the Western hemisphere.
They ventured successfully into the classical world, somehow managing to squeeze the thundering, warp-driven “Malambo” from Alberto Ginastera’s orchestral ballet “Estancia” into their intimate format without losing the music’s frenzy.
They even tried the famous “Hoe-Down” from Copland’s “Rodeo”; the Assads had the clip-clop rhythms down pat.
Among the other highlights were a fanciful, groove-driven arrangement of Ernesto Lecuona’s “Conga de la Media Noche,” Agustin Barrios’ engaging “Danza Paraguaya,” Astor Piazzolla’s mournful “Milonga per tre” and the eccentrically riffing medley of Hermeto Pascoal’s “O Ovo/Bebe.”
And D’Rivera the entertainer was in prime wisecracking form from beginning to end, adding to the evening’s easygoing appeal. In his only solo number, he cobbled together a string of quotes from his idol and former employer Dizzy Gillespie’s songbook that he called “Dizziness,” leaving space for those in the audience who felt inclined to shout, “Salt Peanuts! Salt Peanuts!”