Mario Rivera (1939-2007): Latin saxophone and flute

January 6, 2009

I recently got a copy of the 1984 Tito Puente disc El Rey. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t familiar with the names of any of the other musicians on the album—everyone sounds absolutely incredible—but I was blown away by the flute and tenor playing of Mario Rivera.

A quick Google search later and I can see that the late Mr. Rivera ranks among the heavies of Latin Jazz, and I have been missing out on his playing before now. Pick up a copy of El Rey and check out his virtuosic charanga-style flute playing (on Puente’s Oye Como Va, for examplethat’s right, Tito Puente wrote it, not Carlos Santana) and some really tasty tenor sounds, too (check out the Latin cover of Giant Steps).

Or, surf on over to YouTube for some videos from a Bern Jazz Festival appearance. Hear some breathtaking baritone  playing, some really nice flute duets (not to mention piccolos, timbales, and scat) with Dave Valentin, and, if that’s not enough, Rivera on vibes and even trumpet(!).

More on Mario Rivera:

NYPost.com obit

All About Jazz entry

The True Multi-Instrumentalist by Chip Boaz

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