Beyond salsa

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Jerry Rivera wants to be a lot more than just the pampered child of salsa. And, so, he's been taking the first steps to expand his musical horizons and show his interpretative maturity.

In "Ya no soy el niqo aquel," his next to last recording, the Puerto Rican salsa star added to his repertoire a Brazilian samba, a Colombian vallenato (a distant Latin American cousin to Louisiana's zydeco) and a pop ballad. In "De otra manera," Rivera fulfilled his wish of singing two classical boleros accompanied by a trio, in this case his father's Trio Los Varones. And by now everybody knows his ballad version, with orchestral accompaniment, of "Ese," which became the theme song of the popular Mexican soap opera telenovela "Mirada de mujer," when it aired last year with the Telemundo network.

At first sight his foray into the bolero and the ballad coincides with the revitalization this genre has enjoyed thanks to the likes of Colombian heartthrobs Charlie Zaa and Los Tri-O. But this incursion should not come as a surprise to anyone who has closely followed Rivera's career. His father was a professional bolero singer since the age of 15, and he produced the demo that opened the gates to the world of salsa for Rivera.

Jerry Rivera's fans at last will be able to enjoy his boleros during his performance at the Gentile Centre of Loyola University, this coming December 3. Rivera will sing a couple of songs with his father's trio. The concert, organized by Latino Art Beat, will also include performances by Brenda K. Starr, Tito Puente, Jr. and the merengue group Los Malkriados. The proceeds from the concert will go to a scholarship program sponsored by Latino Art Beat and the construction of an art training center in the south side neighborhood of Little Village.

Regarding the Chicago debut of his father's trio, Jerry Rivera explains that "he was about to retire but now has a new motivation. I convinced him to stay with me. I believe that he feels a lot more comfortable and that he is pleased with what he's doing. We are having many experiences we had not shared before, that I only had on my own.

"Six years ago I had the idea of traveling with the trio, but my management team thought that that could deviate from the Jerry Rivera concept," he continued. "I think that you should not limit yourself. Nowadays, the public expects some variety in the show. A little bit of everything, not just salsa from top to bottom. They want boleros with an orchestra, boleros with trios, more aggressive uses of the son, plenas. Something that makes people jump, sit, cry, slit their wrists, feel joyful."

Presently Rivera is recording his tenth album, due for release on late January, in time for the celebration of his tenth anniversary in music. Rivera anticipates that this production will have more variety than the two previous ones. In it Rivera will be performing a cha-cha-cha, a Puerto Rican plena and two boleros composed by his mother, with the accompaniment, once again, of the Trio Los Varones. It will all be a family affair.

"I always knew that my mother was a person with music inside of her, a very gifted composer," Rivera says. "My dream was to record one of her songs. She has dedicated all her life to the Gospel. She is not one of those protestants who want to impose religion or anything like that. She doesn't share that philosophy. It's just that she has traveled all over the world carrying the message of faith and love. Those are the reasons why she didn't want to give us her songs. But this year, I finally convinced her.

"Above all I can show the public that Jerry Rivera comes from a family where we have music for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Rivera stated. "Let the people know that Jerry Rivera comes from a family of real musicians. He was not made in a factory. He's the real thing."

Alejandro Riera is a Staff Writer for !Exito!, the Spanish-language weekly published by the Chicago Tribune. Translation by Benito Garcma.

Latino Art Beat presents Jerry Rivera, Brenda K. Starr and Tito Puente Jr.
WHEN: December 3
WHERE: Joe Gentile Center at Loyola University, 6525 N. Sheridan Rd.
ADMISSION: $32-$65
SHOWTIME: Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
PHONE: (773) 291-6901

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