Ismael Rivera – Feliz Navidad
In this album, “Quiero A Mi Pueblo” (a plena/guaracha) will remind you of his recordings with his old friend Cortijo y su Combo which Maelo was a big part of as lead vocalist–it is a joyous treat for those celebrating the holidays. “Una Tarjeta Postal” is a romantic bolero which shows us that he is not only a salsero widely known as “El Sonero Mayor,” but a bolerista as well. Other boleros are “Llego Navidad” and “Navidad De Nuevo,” featured in this album. “Vengo Del Campo” is a swinging bomba which features inspiring soneos as only Ismael can perform. In “Seis De Borinquen” there is a section where Maelo is accompanied by the great trombonist Barry Rogers–Barry joins Maelo in unison. The coro contributes mightily to this cut, which features nice step-outs by guitarist Vinnie Bell. “Bomba De Navidad” is a composition by producer Louie Ramirez which is sure to get the dancers on their feet.
All in all, this is a festive Navidad album with a hard rhythm section that includes Carlos Malcon on timbales, Victor Gonzalez on bongo, Carlos Ayala on guiro, and Johnny Ross on conga. In addition, we have the fine contribution on bass by Andy Gonzalez and Joe Blanco on piano. The brass section includes trumpeter Larry Spencer, Barry Rogers on trombone, and Pedro Gonzalez on sax. Steve Monge joins Vinnie Bell as featured guitarist.
Ismael (Maelo) Rivera was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He was the first of five children born to Luis and Margarita Rivera. His Father, Luis, was a carpenter and his Mother a housewife. On October 5, 2008, Puerto Rico’s governor Anibal Acevedo Vila’ signed a proclamation stating that every anniversary of Rivera’s birth will be celebrated as Día Conmemorativo del Natalicio de Ismael Rivera. In Villa Palmeras, in Santurce, there is a plaza named Plaza de los Salseros which has a statue and plaque dedicated to Ismael Rivera and he wasposthumously inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Ismael (Maelo) Rivera died on May 13, 1987, in the arms of his mother, Margarita, from a heart attack. Rivera is buried in the San José Cemetery in Villa Palmeras in Santurce. —Bobby Marin