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Artist Profile: Furito Rios

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Maestro, JOSE “FURITO” RIOS is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, musical director, producer, and visionary.

He was born in San Juan in 1968. At eight, he attended Puerto Rico’s Escuela Libre de Musica where he studied the saxophone, bassoon, clarinet, and flute. “I was in the eighth grade when I played with a group of students older than me,” says Rios. “Two of the group members listened to jazz, and they introduced me to stuff like Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, and (Charlie) Parker. When I first listened to Parker, I said, ‘What is this?’ It was like someone took me to another planet or galaxy. So I started buying and collecting jazz records. That was back in 1981-82.” Rios also cites John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Ornette Coleman as primary influences.

Later, Rios played with the vocalist Joe Valle. Also, he credits trumpeter, Elias Lopes, for teaching him how to play correctly. In 1984-85 he performed with the orchestras of Bobby Valentin and Cano Estremera. After a brief stint in Las Vegas, where he performed at the Latin Quarter, Rios returned to Puerto Rico and accompanied Sophy, Lucecita, Glenn Monroig, Paloma SanBasilio, Rocio Durcal, Roberto Carlos, Jose Jose, and Marco Antonio Muniz. Also, he did commercial work and jingles.

In 1986 he enrolled in Berklee’s College of Music in Boston, where he studied with Bill Pierce and Andy McGee and attended Master Classes with Michael Brecker. Also, he excelled on the alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone saxophones, flute, clarinet, and as a composer-arranger.

In the 90s, he and Pablito Rosario formed the group Orinoco, which made its debut at the 2009 San Juan Jazz Fest. Also, he appeared as a guest with the dynamic all-star salsa group, Descarga Boricua.

On his first recording as a leader titled, The Time 6:38 Rios composes, arranges, produces, directs, and plays a multitude of instruments. The guests include saxophonist David Sanchez and the late great trumpeter, percussionist Jerry Gonzalez and others.

Between 2001 and 2004, Rios produced and directed the Festival de Jazz Borinquen. Also, in 2009, Rios led a concert series in Old San Juan titled Jazzeando En La Plaza. According to Rios, “The festivals included and in some cases launched the careers of some of the best-known musicians from Puerto Rico including Giovanni Hidalgo, Papo Vazquez, Paoli Mejias, Henry Cole, David Sanchez, Miguel Zenon, Angel David Mattos, Luis Perico Ortiz, Pedro Guzman, and Jerry Gonzalez.”

In 2012, Rios released La Maestria with an impressive all-star ensemble of Puerto Rican Latin jazz and Salsa artists who joined forces under his direction. The lineup included Pedro Brull, Primi Cruz, Jose Lugo, Piro Rodriguez, Jose Pepe Gazmei, Dalbert Garcia, Luis Aquino, Anthony Carrillo, Edwin Clemente, Milton Sesenton, Victor Vazquez, Angel Papo Vazquez, from Barcelona, gypsy singer, Sicus Carbonell and the young sonero Joshua Marcell.

In 2015 Rios released the CD Standard Bomba, followed by Standard Bomba II (2018), where he ably and remarkably fuses straight-ahead jazz classics and original compositions with traditional Puerto Rican bomba. Also, in 2017 he composed the soundtrack for the acclaimed documentary film Nuyorican Basquet.

Rios participated in the Michelob Jazz Fest (1991-1992), the Curacao Jazz Fest (1993), and the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest. Also, he has performed with Giovanni Hidalgo, Michel Camilo, Arturo Sandoval, Tito Puente, Bob Mintzer, Mike Mossman, Diane Schurr, Eddie Palmieri, George Benson Paquito D’Rivera, Jane Bunnett, Eddie Gomez, Hilton Ruiz, Jerry González, David Sánchez, Papo Vázquez, Bobby Valentín, William Cepeda and John Benítez among many others.

His credentials as a clarinetist with Puerto Rico’s Symphony Orchestra and performances of the works of Mahler, Bartok, and Ravel among others, are lesser-known but significant.

Recently, amid the pandemic, Puerto Rico’s Instituto Para La Cultura Popular presented the virtual concert, Jazzeando en al Arte III, Bomba pa Blakey, featuring Furito Rios and his band, who put their spin on Bobby Watson’s E.T.A., Wayne Shorter’s This is for Albert, One by One and Ping-Pong, and Pamela Watson’s Mrs. B.C. Also, the painters Hiram Montalvo and Rafael Rivera created works-of-art inspired by the music.

To date, Rios appears on over 300 recordings. Also, he is directly responsible for whetting the Puerto Rican public’s appetite for jazz and making it accessible to the masses. His impressive credentials and diverse body-of-work have earned Furito Rios the title, Maestro!

Sources

  • Fundacion Para La Cultura Popular – http://prpop.org
  • Jazzin’ Interview (No date)
  • Sostre, William Maldonado – Boricua Jazz: Desde Rafael Hernandez a Miguel Zenon      La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueno (2019)

Recommended Listening

  • Time 6:38 (Rare, 2001)
  • La Maestria (2012)
  • Standard Bomba (2015)
  • Cuarto al Jazz – Live at the Boriken Jazz Festival (2003)

© 2020 Tomas Pena
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

 

 

 

 

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.

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