Hello! My name is Sharon Riley Rexach. I am the daughter of Sylvia Rexach. I want to first of all thank Dr. José Cruz for his initiative in bringing together such a talented group of artists for this musical project and I am happy that you have managed to discover Sylvia and that today, November 23, you honor her with this concert. I congratulate Ángela Cervantes, Pepe Rivero, Reinier Elizarde, Michael Olivera and Ariel Bringuez. I know that to sing Sylvia is to discover a new world where her melodies and lyrics transport us to a place of bohemia and romance as only Sylvia knows how to do it. Much success on your premiere and know that today Sylvia listens to you with the swaying of her Olas y Arenas.
It was with those words of congratulation, gratefulness, and encouragement that the maiden concert of the new Jazz/Latino production of the music of Sylvia Rexach opened at Teatro Bellas Artes in Madrid on November 23, 2021. Before a note was played the audience erupted in an enthusiastic burst of applause to the message delivered remotely by Sharon Riley, immediately making the concert a deeply felt communal experience. Sharon lives in Florida, USA but she was in Madrid in spirit that night as was Sylvia, her ethereal presence floating in the blue lights of the theatre, and her voice transformed from bodyless mist into a vibratory presence channeled into being by the grace of Pepe Rivero and Ángela Cervantes.
The day before the concert Ángela started coming down with a cold; the day of the concert, the wife of Reinier "El Negrón" Elizardi went into labor and he had to rush her to the hospital. Just hours before the show, a frantic operation was unleashed to find a piano that would fit through the doors of the theatre because the original piano sent by the rental company was too big. Stagehands had to be found in a rush to put the replacement piano in place instead of using a mechanical lift, making the feat more complex and more delicate.
The public was never the wiser about most of these last minute adversities that for a team less professional and less gifted would have proven fatal. Rivero's worry about performing with a keyboard instead of a proper piano dissolved into nothing. Ángela sang her heart out with technical perfection and deep sentiment. Pablo Martín Caminero, Negrón's replacement, came, read the charts, and just with the benefit of a sound check, played as if he had being doing it forever. A musician friend later wrote to me: "He played flawlessly, he is a monster."
When I told Sharon about Ángela's condition, she said that for a singer who knows what she is doing a cold is not necessarily a fatal handicap. As a singer herself, she should know. She shared how once during a show in Puerto Rico she was so sick that she would sing a song, go backstage to throw up, and then go back on stage and sing the next song. "The audience never knew what was happening to me," she said. Ángela's condition was not nearly as bad but I was alarmed when I heard her over the phone the day before the concert because her voice was hoarse. On November 23, no one had the slightest clue that there was anything wrong with her. To the contrary, according to one participant, her interpretations were heartful and emotive, full of filin, and her vocal solo in "Alma adentro," was "simply out of this world." All the musicians played brilliantly, which is their trademark.
After the performance, two of my friends who attended the concert wrote to me bursting with enthusiasm. One of them was a donor and was supposed to pick up the copies of the CD that were coming to him for his donation but he left without them because the line at the CD table was too long and he could not wait. "The crowd was very enthusiastic," he wrote to me, adding: "This is a very good sign. The concert was excellent. Congratulations!" My other friend brought someone with her and both were fascinated by the performance. Her Whatsapp message said: "The concert was outstanding, great musicians and artists. I thought it was fantastic and my friend was mesmerized as well." According to Lio Villahermosa, a musician and Rexach devotee from Puerto Rico, the concert was "a splurge of beauty. The music was impeccably creative."
The night of November 23 at Teatro Bellas Artes was one of difficulties, unexpected mishaps, excellence, and magic. Sylvia Rexach once wrote that "music lives in the breeze, in the sea, in nature, in the rivers, trembling in the swaying of the leaves, on the radios, in the clubs, in the juke boxes [...]. Performers die and are buried, but the music remains for other performers to be born and the songs to be sung again...." Her music is indeed alive and in the arrangements of Pepe Rivero and the voice of Ángela Cervantes it was beautifully rendered into the universal language of Latin jazz... with lots of filin as a bonus. This is, above all, what the night of November 23 at Bellas Artes in Madrid was all about.
—José E. Cruz
As a follow up to our successful 2019 production of the CD El pañuelo de Pepa, we have launched a new recording project of the music of Sylvia Rexach. Rexach was a master composer of heartfelt boleros. Her style was a part of the filin (feeling) movement in Caribbean song, a movement that was influenced by jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat King Cole. We teamed up once again with renowned Cuban pianist Pepe Rivero to do the arrangements and to record the songs with his Latin jazz trio. The trio includes two prominent Cuban musicians: Reinier Elizarde on bass and Michael Olivera on drums. Our vocalist is the fabulous ibicenca singer Ángela Cervantes. Two very special guests are featured: Puerto Rican Miguel Zenón on alto sax and Cuban tenor saxophonist Ariel Bringuez. The CD is now available for sale. It will be officially released to all digital platforms and in a live concert on November 23, 2021 at Teatro Bellas Artes in Madrid. To order your copies go to our SHOP page.
On November 23, 2021, Pepe Rivero and Ángela Cervantes will present the music of Sylvia Rexach live at Teatro Bellas Artes in Madrid. The CD will be presented at the concert and will be available on all digital platforms on that date. Order yours now in our SHOP page. The single "Es tarde ya" is now available in all digital platforms. Check it out!
Read a review of the November 23 concert here: https://www.madridiario.es/alias.asp?alias=silvia-rexach-sorprende-en-madrid
"Es tarde ya" from the CD Olas y Arenas by Pepe Rivero and Ángela Cervantes, is now available for downloads from all digital platforms. The full album will be available on November 23. Order your copy of the CD from our SHOP page
Listen to Ángela Cervantes' stunning interpretation of this Rexach classic and order your copy of Olas y Arenas now from the SHOP page.
Pepe Rivero and his latin jazz trio with Ángela Cervantes on vocals, recording Y entonces at Camaleón Studios in Madrid, August 2, 2021.
Pepe Rivero and his Latin jazz trio with Ángela Cervantes on vocals rehearsing Nave sin rumbo at Camaleón Studios in Madrid, August 1, 2021.
Inspired by the musical poetry of Sylvia Rexach, the cuban pianist and composer, Pepe Rivero and the ibicenca singer Ángela Cervantes, come together in this recording project, produced by José E. Cruz, to commemorate and renew the repertoire of the Puerto Rican artist.
Olas y Arenas, the homonym of one of her most famous songs, aims to add a new voice to the sensitive work of Sylvia, a committed woman ahead of her time, singer, songwriter, comedy scriptwriter and poet, as well as her intense but short life .
Her music evokes times that straddled the First World War and the bohemian nights of the 50s, in a world that did not see the full value of her art until after her passing.