Wendell Rivera

Wendell Rivera

BMHOF Class of 2000

Wendell Rivera is an award winning percussionist who grew up absorbing the sounds that emanated in and around Ponce, Puerto Rico. Rivera has performed Latin music and Jazz throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean Islands.

His first link to the music of the island was his grandfather, a performer of the traditional music of the island, the "Bomba and Plena."His self-taught skills and natural abilities on the conga drum quickly brought the caliber of his playing to a professional level. Rivera's playing caught the ears of some of the tenured professors of Latin Music: Tito Gomez, Joe Rodriguez "La Terrifica", and Josie Leon, writer/composer and former singer from La Solucion Orchestra.

Later he matriculated into playing professionally with all three, an auspicious beginning, that set the tone for his 20-plus year career.

As a percussionist, he has perform with artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin, Ben Vereen, Dave Valentin, Bob Mintzer, Ralph Irrizarry, Yomo Toro, and Humberto Ramirez, Raynaldo George, and Oscar Hernandez.

His musical influences range from Israel "Cachao" Lopez (music and style) to Mongo Santamariaï's incorporation of North American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, Dizzy Gillispie, Tito Rodriguez, Machito and Tito Puente.

Rivera now makes his home in Buffalo, New York where he has carved a niche in the Western New York music scene.

In the year 2000, Rivera was inducted in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, an award that recognizes his achievements and musical contributions to the Western New York community.

On June 7, 1996 Rivera released NO BOUNDARIES a production which featured eight selections of refined Latin Jazz compositions providing insight into sounds that evolved from the rumba orchestras of the 1930's, the Cubop movement of the 1940's and the Latin Jazz of today. NO BOUNDARIES quickly caught the attention of some of the top critics in the country.

"New York-based Puerto Rican percussionist-composer-band leader Wendell Rivera is living proof that while you can take the boy out of the tropics you can't take the tropics out of the boy. His self-produced album is one of the season's most enjoyable, full of catchy melodies, stylistic surprises, and rhythmic heat." Mark Holston, Hispanic, Jazziz, and New York Latino magazine.

"Wendell puts together an ensemble of New York's finest instrumentalists and together they deliver some of the freshest Latin jazz grooves around." Rudolph Mangual, Latin Beat Magazine.

"Happy sax solos, pianistic string of pearls, Latin spirit and perfectionism, jazz individuality, grooves and percussion "con salsa" that will get you up and dancing." Charlie Kiel, Author, Ethnomusicologist

Rivera's latest production Portfolio, is a powerful and persuasive session loaded with engaging melodies, taut jazz soloing and molten Afro- Caribbean rhythms. This high energy mainstream date benefits from a strong shot of sabor tropical provided by legendary vocalist Yolanda Rivera, cuatro ace Yomo Toro, Nino Segarra and other celebrated guests.

Rivera also appears on Miki Howard's "Can't Count Me Out" (Hush Records), the "Macarena" version of Chekere from Costa Rica, produced by Tony Johnson (Looney Tunes Records), "Content Under Pressure" and "Golden Palm" with Jeff Jarvis and "Just For You" with Jeff Hackworth.

While maintaining a strong commitment to Latin music, both notated and improvised along with jazz, Wendell taught Afro-Latin Music at the University of Buffalo. Rivera also served on the Board of Directors of Musicians United for Superior Education (MUSE), a not-for-profit organization that supports the arts as absolutely necessary for children, in terms of healthy physical, intellectual and emotional development. He also served on the Board of Directors for This Little House, an after-school program with an emphasis on the arts.

For more information, go to: www.wendellrivera.com

​​Back - 2000