WRITTEN BY ALEX HERRERA
On October 26, 2013 the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra celebrated 30 years of Afro-Latin Jazz in America in honor of “El Commandante” Mario Rivera.
Born in the Dominican Republic on July 22, 1939, Rivera is considered one of the most gifted saxophonists in Latin Jazz.
He played thirteen other instruments including the piano, drums, congas and flute.
Rivera has done a couple of compositions with famous musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Stanley Turrentine.
His friend, Arturo O’Farrill Jr. and Rivera’s son Phoenix Rivera still continue playing in his legacy.
Everyone in the orchestra knew of Mario and told stories about how he influenced them as a mentor.
Walking into Symphony Space, one might not know what to expect from the band. But soon enough, the place started coming alive.
The flow of saxophone mixed with double bass and percussion made everyone want to dance.
The history of Afro-Latin Jazz started when African-American music began incorporating the Cuban habanera rhythm in the 19th century.
The influence would spread into Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
The clave concept was used was part of the rhythm and the first person whose band was able to explore this was Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill, father of Arturo O’Farrill Jr.
For the three hours, the audience was entertained with notes of jazz and meringue as the stage blasted rhythm after rhythm of the most intoxicating music.
This band knows how to electrify a crowd and keep the place entertained the entire night.
“From our ancestors, the music of Latin Jazz from South America and the Caribbean would come to America and my father was the only one to bring Meringue and Jazz into the mix,” said band’s members.
In 2007 created a nonprofit organization called the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance that helps young musicians such as Gabrielle Garo.
Garo has has been pursuing music since she was 9 years old, and has worked with a lot of musicians including with the orchestra and currently studies classical music at Juilliard.
The orchestra is now in its fifth season at Symphony Space in the Upper West Side.
If you want to know more about them, visit www.afrolatinjazz.org.