Vincent “Little Johnny” Rivero’s nickname is a bit of a misnomer. He’s not particularly short. And after years of performances with some of the biggest names in jazz music, his stage presence has become larger than life.
On July 17, Weehawken residents will be able to see just how big “Little Johnny” truly is, when his eponymous Salsa and Latin Jazz orchestra takes to the stage for a free performance at Lincoln Harbor Park on the waterfront.
It won’t be the first or the last time that the park has rocked this summer. Rivero’s performance is the second installment of the Hudson River Performing Arts Center free summer concert series, sponsored by the Hudson Reporter, which kicked off back on June 26 with a performance from Ed Palermo’s Big Band.
But for now, the focus lies on Rivero, who is happy to be back after a month-long trip to Europe, and not just because of the stunning view of the New York City skyline he takes in every day from the North Bergen residence he has called home for over a decade.
“I love New Jersey,” he said.
Rivero has had a lifelong love affair with the area, dating back all the way to his time growing up in the Barrio on 122nd Street and being enthralled by the daily jam sessions that would take place outside his home.
Developing his percussion skills with years of training, Rivero joined La Sonora Ponceña after moving with his family to Puerto Rico, establishing himself as one of the best congueros in the world.
“I love New Jersey.”- Vincent “Little Johnny” Rivero
But now, Rivero is just happy to be home in his “most peaceful environment.”
The talent that Rivero has encountered over the years has been equally exotic.
Rivero has played alongside some of the best and brightest in the worlds of Salsa and Latin Jazz, from Kenny G and Phil Woods to Giovanni Hidalgo and Ray Barretto.
Most notably, Rivero has made himself a consistent presence in Eddie Palmieri’s Latin Jazz band and Salsa Orchestra, drawing guidance from the nine-time Grammy Award winner.
“Eddie Palmieri is my inspiration,” he said. “He brings a lot of great vibes.”
And though Palmieri won’t be there on the 17th, Rivero’s band will boast a Grammy winner of its own, as trumpeter Brian Lynch will perform as a special guest.
Rivero is looking forward to sharing the stage with Lynch, a veteran of Palmieri’s Afro-Caribbean Jazz band in his own right.
“Brian Lynch is just a great human being,” he said. “It’s my honor to be working with a guy with so much potential.”
There’s no telling just what the troika of Rivero, his 13-piece salsa band, and Lynch will bring on the 17th — as Rivero points out, there’s “so much potential.”
“Little Johnny” is certain of one big thing: “It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
For more information about the 2013 Summer Concerts on the Hudson series, visit www.hrpac.org, or call 201-716-4540.