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Best of 2012 List – Beyond Category

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Best Recordings of 2012 – Selection by Canada Editor Raul da Gama –

Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers – Cuneiform Records

An epic 4-disc suite that remembers the Civil Rights Movement and pays homage to Dr. Martin Luther King and other significant men and women of the Movement by one of the most iconic trumpeter, composer and musician of the modern era… Read our full review.

David Virelles – Continuum – Pi Records

A near Homeric odyssey set to music that is at once a lesson in musical history as well as in that which led to the Ascent of Man by the young Cuban-born pianist, whose intellect rivals his own virtuosity in this evolving collision with the great drummer, Andrew Cyrille… Read our full review.

Makrokosmos Quartet – Round Midnight – hatART Records

The majestic and angular, contemporary tribute to Thelonious Monk played by two sets of pianists—the Turkish brothers, Ufuk and Bahar Dördüncü, whose repertoire includes J.S Bach, Claude Debussy, Toru Takemitsu and Kemal Sunder; and two percussionists Sébastien Cordier and Francois Volpé, who between them have played works by Giacinto Scelsi, Brian Ferneyhough and Helmut Lachenmann… Read our full review.

Lucía Pulido – Por Esos Caminos – Ojo Música

Lucía Pulido immerses herself into narrative and lyrics like no other musician recording and performing today. Moreover, she is capable of communicating feelings and emotions directly to the soul… A flawless recording by one of the finest vocalist’s active today; Ms. Pulido is a worthy successor to the likes Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln… Read our full review.

Tcha Limberber and Herman Schamp – Reizigers—Dialogue ex tempore – Independent Release

Here Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg; Bela Bartok, Aram Khachaturian gently collide with the beautiful restlessness of the Manouche in the gilded, contrapuntal arena of Johann Sebastian Bach and the realm of the harmolodic expansionism of Ornette Coleman… Read our full review.

Aruán Ortiz and the Camerata Urbana Ensemble – Santiarican Blus Suite – Sunnyside Records

This record by a very special artist will go down as one of the most significant works of music. Its power, significance and beauty will forever linger in the soul, where all musical art is enjoyed to the fullest. Ortiz is among a growing tribe of Afro-Cuban artists who have arrived in the USA and continue to conquer the world… Read our full review.

Donald Vega – Spiritual Nature – Resonance Records

It takes probably three or four bars into the first song, “Scorpio,” on pianist Donald Vega’s Resonance album Spiritual Nature for a magical spell to unfold. This is not the spell of an exhibitionist on a dimly-lit stage that recalls a Houdini or some Eastern Pasha; rather it is an entrancing recital by one of the most elegant and intellectually astounding pianists of today… Read our full review.

Miguel Zenón and Laurent Coq – Rayuela – Sunnyside Records

Rayuela the legendary 1963 Spanish novel by the great Argentinean writer, Julio Cortázar had an equally illustrious incarnation in English in 1966 as Hopscotch… Thanks to alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, pianist Laurent Coq and Executive Producer Francois Zalaçain the existential angst of another generation has been shaken up with the magnificent musical telling of the oblique narrative… Read our full review.

Ryan Truesdell – The Gill Evans Centennial Project – ArtistShare

Among some of the most significant aspects of the career of the legendary Gil Evans that seems lost to listeners of great music is that his reputation rests on the shoulders of Miles Davis. Ryan Truesdell remedies this in one of the most fabulous big band records that brings to fruition some of Evans’ great “lost” music… Read our full review.

Carmen Souza –Kachupada – Galileo Music

Carmen Souza is the extraordinarily talented vocalist, who lives in Lisbon, Portugal, and has brought her unique mix of Afro-Caribbean and native Cape-Verden Creole music to the world in. She has melded this with the fluttering feeling of saudade and the dialect of jazz into an idiom of her own… Read our full review.

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

Tribute to the Masters

Tribute to the Masters: Mario Rivera

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Mario Rivera "El Comandante"

Mario Rivera was a gifted musician, composer and arranger that played more than 15 instruments, which included piano, vibraphone, drums, trumpet, timbales, congas, flute, and piccolo. But Rivera was known for how he kissed and caressed the tenor, soprano, alto and baritone saxophones. He could play all of the family of saxophones on a virtuosic level as a soloist and section player and was one of the very few saxophonists who also mastered of the flute in the Cuban charanga style. Unlike most musicians, Rivera played all these instruments at an exceedingly high level of musicianship. Rivera dominated the “straight- ahead” jazz and Latin Jazz, Salsa and many other genres.

Mario Rivera "El Comandante"
Mario Rivera “El Comandante”

Mario was born July 22, 1939 in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic. After he arrived in NYC in 1961, he worked with Puerto Rican vocalist Joe Valle. His most significant musical associations through the years include Tito Rodríguez (1963-65), The Machito Orchestra, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Típica 73, The George Coleman Octet, Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, Slide Hampton’s Jazz Masters, the Afro Blue Band, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chico O’Farrill’s Orchestra and especially Tito Puente’s Orchestra and Latin Jazz Ensemble with whom he worked for on and off for decades.

Mario Rivera "El Comandante" the merengue-jazz - Guest: George Coleman - Groovin High
Mario Rivera “El Comandante” the merengue-jazz – Guest: George Coleman – Groovin High

Even though Rivera was one of the hardest working sidemen in the jazz and Latin music business he also led two groups of his own Salsa Refugees and The Mario Rivera Sextet. Although having appeared on virtually hundreds of recording, Mario recorded only one disc as a leader named after his sobriquet, “El Comandante.” It has fine examples of combinations of the native rhythm of his homeland, merengue from the Dominican Republic and jazz improvisation. Indeed it can be considered not only a tribute to his homeland and his mastery of jazz harmony but an homage also to one of his inspirations and yet another unsung hero, fellow Dominican saxophone master, Tavito Vásquez.

Mario Rivera "El Comandante" and "The Salsa Refugees" - Back row L-R: Mario Rivera, Andy González, Jorge Dalto, Jerry González, Papo Vázquez, Nicky Marrero - Bottom Row L-R: Elías Peguero, César Ozuna
Mario Rivera “El Comandante” and “The Salsa Refugees” – Back row L-R: Mario Rivera, Andy González, Jorge Dalto, Jerry González, Papo Vázquez, Nicky Marrero – Bottom Row L-R: Elías Peguero, César Ozuna

Rivera’s passing has been felt very hard in the Latin music and jazz community and he is sorely missed. But we have his stories, music recordings, photos, and videos to remember this grand musician because what he left us makes him truly immortal.


We leave the readers with these final thoughts from Mario himself: “In my case, the day becomes the night and the night becomes the day. There are no vehicles on the street; there are no sirens at night. There is nothing that could block the inspiration. My home is like a musical laboratory because I have to accomplish so many things, I have to learn to play so many instruments. I spend all of my free time at home, practicing like a maniac, refining my chops. This is why I play 24 instruments. When it comes to music, one must be actively militant. Music demands your entire attention and dedication. If a musician is not willing to make that commitment, he will end up floating on a sea of turds, along with the other idle and mediocre characters.”

Mario Rivera passed in August, 2007, may he play on.

Content source: James Nadal

Photos from the Facebook Tribute Page: Mario Rivera “el Comandante”

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