Honoring and Remembering one of the Greatest Latin Jazz Musicians: “El Comandante” Mario Rivera


WHO: The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance presents GRAMMY winners Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in A Night of Afro Dominican Jazz: Honoring and Remembering “El Commandante” Mario Rivera. The program kicks off the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s 12th season and is a celebration of one of the greatest Latin Jazz musicians, Mario Rivera.

WHAT: Mario Rivera was a founding member of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra; a revered virtuosic multi-instrumentalist and beloved mentor to countless musicians. The program will feature guest artists who loved and worked with Rivera including trumpeter Ray Vega, who will be joined on Friday by tenor saxophonist George Coleman, followed by trombonist Papo Vazquez on Saturday. The program includes a re-creation of Rivera’s classic recording, El Commandante, featuring Ivan Renta, a protégé of Rivera’s and a member of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Guided by guest curator and noted researcher Leonardo Ivan Dominguez, we explore Rivera’s own cultural roots with a section devoted to Afro Dominican folkloric music featuring KumbaCarey led by Pedro Raposo and Maria Terrero.

WHEN: Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26, @ 8:00 pm.  Pre-performance discussion on Friday only at 7:00 pm.

WHERE: Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street. 212/864-5400

WHY: “Mario was a musician and a gentleman, a philosopher and scientist.” explained Arturo O’Farrill. “He spoke gently and commanded the stage with his giant presence on any number of instruments, such as trumpet, vibes, all the saxophones, timbales and flutes. He was way beyond category; he was a musician’s musician.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Admission is: $20. Students/Seniors/Children: $15. Symphony Space members: $15.  Photos are available upon request. BIOS are below.

BIOS for “A Night of Afro Dominican Jazz Honoring & Remembering “El Commandante” Mario Rivera

MARIO RIVERA (1939 – 2007)

Mario RiveraMario Rivera will long be remembered among the most gifted saxophonists in Latin jazz — a virtuoso on all the saxophones and a master of thirteen other instruments including trumpet, piano, flute, vibraphone, drums, and congas.  He remains best remembered for his two-decade association with the legendary Tito Puente. Born July 22, 1939, in the Dominican Republic, he relocated from his native Santo Domingo to New York City in 1961, first working behind Puerto Rican vocalist Joe Valle. From 1963 to 1965, Rivera performed with bandleader Tito Rodriguez – and in the years to follow, he performed with Latin greats such as Machito, Eddie Palmieri, and Mongo Santamaria, and also recorded with artists including Stanley Turrentine (1967’s New Time Shuffle) and Dizzy Gillespie (1975’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods). In 1988, he rejoined Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra. In 2002 he became a founding member of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Rivera found time to lead his own groups the Salsa Refugees and the Mario Rivera Sextet, and in 1996 issued El Commandante, his sole recording as a leader. After a long battle with cancer, he died in New York City on August 10, 2007.

ARTURO O’FARRILL, Pianist & Musical Director, Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Arturo O'FarrillGrammy Award winning pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill — leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz” (NY Times) — was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Son of the late, great composer Chico O’Farrill, Arturo was Educated at Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano in Carla Bley’s Big Band from 1979 through 1983 and earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. In 2002, he established the GRAMMY winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider general audience, and to greatly expand the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire through commissions to artists across a wide stylistic and geographic range.

A celebrated composer with a frequent new ground-breaking and forward-looking perspective, Mr. O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, the Big Apple Circus, the Philadelphia Music Project, Symphony Space, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. He has also composed music for films, including Hollywoodland and Salud.  His debut album with the Orchestra, Una Noche Inolvidable, earned a GRAMMY Award nomination in 2006 and the Orchestra’s second album, Song for Chico, (ZOHO) earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2009.  In February 2011, Mr. O’Farrill and the ALJO released their third GRAMMY nominated album, 40 Acres and a Burro (ZOHO).  In 2011, O’Farrill released his first solo album, The Noguchi Sessions, (ZOHO).

Arturo O’Farrill is a Steinway Artist, and artist-in-residence at the Harlem School of the Arts.  He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Chapter of NARAS.


Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Led by pianist, composer, and director Arturo O’Farrill, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) comprises 18 eminent soloists. Performing classic works in the Afro Latin Jazz tradition, the Orchestra helps to preserve this vital musical genre, and commissioning new works provides the next generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists with an opportunity to further explore and define Afro Latin Jazz. Established in 2002, the ALJO has toured internationally, bringing the rhythms and power of Latin jazz to places as far away as China. For the past six years, ALJO has been delighted to perform regularly at Symphony Space. In 2006, the Orchestra received a Grammy nomination for its debut album Una Noche Inolvidable and in 2008 won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year with Song for Chico (ZOHO). ALJO’s third album, 40 Acres and a Burro (ZOHO), was a 2012 Grammy nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra are artists-in-residence at the Harlem School of the Arts.

IVAN RENTA, Tenor Saxophone, Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Ivan RentaBorn in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Ivan Renta began playing the Alto sax at age 13 in his hometown of Coamo. By age 15, he was already performing with local bands in the southern part of Puerto Rico. As a teenager he studied with local saxophist Jose “Cheguito” Encarnación who introduced him to Jazz harmony and improvisation. In 1998 at the age of 17, Ivan moved to New York to attend the prestigious “New School Jazz and Contemporary Music Program”. While in college, he began performing with top artists such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, William Cepeda, and Bobby Sanabria, among others. In February 2000 he contributed to the album Masterpiece, winner of multiple GRAMMY awards, and also Tito Puente’s last recording. During the past years, Ivan Renta has kept quite busy performing with everyone in the New York jazz scene. His collaborations with top musicians such as Conrad Herwig, Brian Lynch, Jon Faddis, Paquito D’ Rivera, Jazz Master Jimmy Heath, Dave Valentin, Ray Barretto, Arturo O’Farill, Willie Colon, Ralph Irizarry, Terell Stafford, Ray Vega, John Benitez, Luis Bonilla, Oscar Hernandez, and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, just to name a few, have taken him to the world’s biggest venues. Ivan currently performs with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and has been called “the New Caribbean phenomenon” by Eddie Palmieri.


Dominican folk research, musician, dancer and scholar, Leonardo Ivan Dominguez, has worked for more than forty years years as a researcher and educator of Dominican folk traditions. Born in a working class neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Ivan was raised by his Dominican-Haitian grandmother who imparted her knowledge of folk religion, music and dance to him. In the 1970’s, Ivan traveled to remote regions of the island documenting and learning traditional rural dances as a member of Santo Domingo University’s folkloric dance troupe and the music group “CONVITE.” During this decade, he participated in all of the folklore courses and training developed in the country studying with Professor Fradique Lizardo; Dr. Hector Diaz Polanco; Drs. Luis Felipe Ramon y Rivera and Isabel Aretz; Dr. Ralph S. Boggs and Professor Edna Garrido de Boggs; Dr. June Rosenberg; and Professor Dagoberto Tejeda.

After moving to United State in 1995, Ivan continued sharing his knowledge of diverse dance and music traditions by teaching Dominican youth in New York, through his work with the “Conjunto Folklorico” a dance and music program he directs at Alianza  in Washington Heights which is now celebrating  their 17 anniversary. Ivan maintains a strong connection with the Island, bringing the “Conjunto Folklorico” members to festivals in the Dominican Republic to witness and experience how culture is danced there. He has developed a methodology to bring the field to the classroom, using video, audio and participant knowledge to reinvigorate a transnational community.

RAY VEGA, Trumpet

Ray VegaA native of the South Bronx, Ray Vega is a veteran of the bands of Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Mario Bauza, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Hector LaVoe, Johnny Pacheco, Larry Harlow, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez and Louie Ramirez to name a few. He has performed and/or recorded with Joe Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Mel Torme, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, The Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Paul Simon, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Big Band, Diane Schuur, The Mike Stewart Big Band (Australia), Michel Camilo, The Bob Belden Big Band, Eddie Palmieri, The Mingus Big Band, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, among numerous others.

Ray Vega has established himself as one of the innovators of the international Jazz and Latin music scenes. A multi-talented trumpeter, percussionist, composer, and arranger, he presents jazz from a refreshingly original and contemporary perspective.  His two recordings on the Concord Picante label, his self-titled debut Ray Vega, and Boperation, along with his first release on the Palmetto label Pa’lante have been well received by critics, audiences and musicians alike.  Vega’s second Palmetto CD Squeeze, Squeeze has also received critical acclaim including Four Stars in Down Beat Magazine.  Vega’s  CD East-West Trumpet Summit a collaboration with Seattle trumpeter Thomas Marriott was released in the summer of 2010 on Origin Records and hit number 1 on the Jazzweek national radio Jazz charts during the week of June 21, 2010.

Vega currently works with the renowned Contemporary Classical composer Osvaldo Golijov, performing first and solo trumpet in the critically acclaimed work; La Pasion Segun San Marco.  He is a senior lecturer at The University of Vermont where he teaches jazz History, directs three jazz combos and supervises the university’s trumpet studio.

GEORGE COLEMAN, Tenor Saxophone

George ColemanGeorge Coleman was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He taught himself to play the alto saxophone in his teens, inspired by Charlie Parker. Among his schoolmates were Harold Mabern, Booker Little, Frank Strozier, Hank Crawford, and Charles Lloyd. After working with Ray Charles, Coleman started working with B.B. King in 1953, at which point he switched to tenor saxophone. In 1956 Coleman moved to Chicago, along with Booker Little, where he worked with Gene Ammons and Johnny Griffin before joining Max Roach Quintet 1958–1959. Coleman recorded with organist Jimmy Smith’s Houseparty (1957), with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, and Donald Bailey. Moving to New York with Max Roach in that year, he went on to play with Slide Hampton (1959–1962), Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, and Wild Bill Davis (1962), before joining Miles Davis Quintet in 1963–1964.

His most famous albums with Davis (and the rhythm section of Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums)) are Seven Steps to Heaven (1963), A Rare Home Town Appearance (1963), Côte Blues (1963), In Europe (1963), My Funny Valentine (1964) and Four & More, both live recordings of a concert in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York in February 1964. Shortly after this concert, Coleman was replaced by Wayne Shorter. He played with Lionel Hampton (1965–1966), also in 1965 and performed on Chet Baker’s The Prestige Sessions, with Kirk Lightsey, Herman Wright and Roy Brooks.[5] Charles Mingus (1977–1978), Shirley Scott (1972), Clark Terry, Horace Silver, Elvin Jones (1968), Cedar Walton (1975),Ahmad Jamal (1994, 2000), and many others.

Coleman is still recording. His CD as co-leader, Four Generations of Miles: A Live Tribute to Miles, with bassist Ron Carter, drummer Jimmy Cobb and guitarist Mike Stern was released on Chesky Records in October 2002 and it concentrates almost exclusively on the 1950s repertoire of Miles Davis. Tracks include: “There Is No Greater Love,” “All Blues,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Blue in Green,” “81,” “Freddie Freeloader,” “My Funny Valentine,” “If I Were a Bell,” and “Oleo.” He was featured on Joey DeFrancesco’s 2006 release Organic Vibes, along with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, Billboard’s Top Jazz Album, peaked to No. 17.


Papo VazquezTrombonist, composer and arranger Papo Vazquez’ more than thirty-five year career spans the jazz, Latin, Afro-Caribbean and classical music and recording worlds.  In 2011 he was presented by Pregones Theater with an NEA Latino Masters Award under the National Endowments for the Arts American Masterpieces.  In 2010, he was commissioned on behalf of Wynton Marsalis for a new work inspired by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam; which was then performed as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz and Art concert series.  Vazquez won a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirates in 2008 for his recording Marooned/Aislado, on his own independent label, Picaro Records.

Vazquez was the first artist to receive a composer’s commission (Iron Jungle) for the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, then a resident orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center. His first classical composition, Palomita Afro-Caribbean Suite, was commissioned by the Bronx Arts Ensemble and premiered at the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture in the Bronx in 2004. In 2007, on a commission from the Bronx River Arts Center, he wrote Sube el Rio (River Rising) for their 20th Anniversary Bronx River Sounds concert. The same year, through a grant from The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, Vazquez was asked to expand Pirates Troubadours, and was commissioned to compose new music for a 19-piece, Afro-Puerto Rican Jazz Orchestra. The Mighty Pirates Orchestra continues to allow Vazquez the opportunity to blend multi-faceted compositions and trombone style with rhythms of Afro-Caribbean origins and jazz. In 2012, he released the CD, Oasis featuring his Mighty Pirates Troubadours, his seven piece Afro Puerto Rican jazz group.

As a musician he has performed/and or recorded with Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, The Fania All- Stars, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Grupo Folklorico Nuyorquino, Larry Harlow, Hector Lavoe, Jerry Gonzalez,  Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Mel Lewis, Ray Charles, Mario Rivera, Hilton Ruiz and Milton Cardona, to name a few. He was a founding member of Jerry Gonzalez’ Fort Apache and Conjunto Libre as well as of Puerto Ricos popular Latin fusion band Batacumbele, performing and recording several albums with the group from 1981 to 1985.

KumbaCarey, Afro Dominican Folkloric Music

Conceived, created and founded in New York City (2007) by pioneers Pedro Raposo and María Terrero KumbaCarey is a most dynamic music band of contemporary and traditional music from the Dominican Republic. The off spring the late master percussionist Boni Raposo’s Afro-Dominican music ensemble La 21 Division (1999), KumbaCarey is a celebration of the diversity of the African-derived rhythms stemming from the Dominican Republic.

KumbaCarey’s compositions and arrangements blend classic and traditional Merengue styles, Bachata and Son with salves and rhythms such as Gagá, Machacó, Congo, Priprí, Mangulina, Carabiné, Bambulá and Palos, thus creating a unique, remarkable sound appealing to dancers and music lovers as well. The band is available for concerts, out-door festivals, private parties, receptions, and lecture demonstrations.

With Director Master Dancer/Vocalist Pedro Raposo and Co-Director Vocalist María Terrero, KumbaCarey integrates the finest musicians and performers from the New York Metropolitan area and the Dominican Republic as well. Among them are Alexander Callender (musical director), Liliana Raposo-Martnez (vocals/percussion); José Maduro, Victor Raposo-Martínez and Saul Martínez (vocals/percussion); Yassel Tejada (lead guitar), Yael Suriel (bass guitar), Kenny Ray (second guitar) 

KumbaCarey has performed at Hostos Center for Arts and Culture’s Quijombo Festival (2007, 2009 and 2012), Lincoln Center’s La Casita Out Door Concert series (summer, 2009), FestiCafé 2010 (Polo, Barahona, Dominican Republic), The Latin American Workshop, University of Massachusetts at Amherst/Casa Dominicana, and the Rockland County Folk Festival (2008 and 2009), Rutgers University and Baruch College.


The nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) was established by Arturo O’Farrill in 2007 to promote Afro Latin Jazz through a comprehensive array of performance and educational programs. It provides institutional support for the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, offers instruction to young students and introduces Afro Latin jazz to new audiences, and maintains a world-class collection of Latin Jazz musical scores and recordings.  ALJA programs celebrate Latino contributions to American jazz and explore the rich diversity of Jazz in the Americas. These programs acknowledge the past while honoring the African roots of Latin Jazz. They sustain the Latin Jazz heritage in the present day by performing the works of masters of the genre and they ensure the future of Latin Jazz by commissioning and performing new works and educating young musicians and audiences in this vital cultural tradition. The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance is a partner project of the Fund for the City of New York and maintains an office at the Harlem School of the Arts – Herb Alpert Center where O’Farrill and the ALJO are artists-in-residence.  For more information on the ALJA, ALJO, and Educational Programs, visit: www.afrolatinjazz.org

Nina Gale Olson – Director of External Affairs – AFRO LATIN JAZZ ALLIANCE c/o Harlem School of the Arts
645 St. Nicholas Avenue, Suite 109, New York, New York 10030
Office: 212/283-4086 | Cell: 917-710-6404
nolson@afrolatinjazz.org | http://www.afrolatinjazz.org

The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra stands for the possibilities of what can happen when you discard the idea of high and low culture, when you cease to engage in elitist socio-economic pandering, when you invite the pueblo into your heart, into your song and into your day-to-day life. For us, that is where the adventure begins. – Arturo O’Farrill, 40 Acres & a Burro