Mario Rivera


Mario Rivera (July 22, 1939 - August 10, 2007) was a musician, composer and arranger. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Although best known as a saxophonist, Rivera doubled on all saxophones family (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone), but he lived as a multi-instrumentalist mastering instruments as C flute, G flute, piccolo, trumpet, piano, vibraphone, melodica, drums, tambora, timbales, bongó, and congas.

Rivera was 22 years old when he arrived to New York City from Dominican Republic. He began performing with a variety of musicians from both Latin jazz and traditional jazz circles, including Tito Rodríguez, Machito, Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria, Sonny Stitt, Roy Haynes and George Coleman.

In 1988, Rivera joined Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation’s Orchestra and then later became a member of the Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Big Band directed by Chico O'Farrill. But Rivera’s most high-profile musical relationship was as a member of Tito Puente’s various ensembles, a partnership that lasted over two decades, including appearances in films as The Mambo Kings and Calle 54. Puente’s work throughout the 1980s and 1990s with the Concord Picante label especially showcase Rivera well. During this time, Puente for the most part put aside salsa and focused upon jazz. This left generous improvisatory space, which Rivera gladly filled.

Even though Rivera was one of the hardest working sidemen in the jazz and latin music fields, he also led two groups of his own – The Salsa Refugees and The Mario Rivera Sextet. As a leader, he recorded one album, El Comandante, a solid mixture of Dominican Merengue and jazz improvisation. With hundreds of recording credits as a sideman, his range include collaborations for Puente, Palmieri, Machito, Rodríguez, and Gillespie as well as O’Farrill, George Shearing, Conrad Herwig and Stanley Turrentine.

Rivera died in New York City at the age of 67.


With Junior Cook

  • Good Cookin' (Muse, 1979)

With Dizzy Gillespie

  • Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods (Pablo, 1975) - with Machito
  • Live at the Royal Festival Hall (Enja, 1989)
  • The Winter in Lisbon (Milan, 1990)

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