I loved Eddie “Guagua” Rivera’s way of playing the bass. He was an exciting and visionary bassist of Salsa and Latin Jazz that made the ordinary extraordinary.
I always wanted to interview Eddie “Guagua”, as I admired the way he played. But I waited too long and missed the opportunity. I first “discovered” Eddie “Guagua” listening to Orchestra Harlow’s recordings, starting with ‘Salsa”, and then with “Live in Quad”. Eddie “Guagua” did many recordings before those. He even was in Willie Colon’s very 1st album “The Hustler”.
“Guagua” was an amazing bass soloist, which set him apart from the crowd. He was a true master of his craft, as he is the only bassist I remembered that carried both a baby bass and a guitar bass around. Most bass players can play both types of instruments, but would normally play just one or the other. “Guagua” carried both around, so he could use the most suitable instrument for the song. He loved playing bass and had pride in his craft. I have yet to enjoy a bass solo in Salsa music more than those of Eddie “Guagua” Rivera.
“…In the bass, the Monster, Eddie “Guagua” Rivera…”
Those were Paquito Navarro’s words to introduce Eddie “Guagua” in Harlow’s “Live in Quad” album. But it wasn’t just Guagua’s solos that were outstanding. Listen carefully to Eddie Palmieri’s Grammy Award winning album “The Sun of Latin Music” and you’ll hear a bass that can rift and play with the “clave” just in the right moment to give the music a timely extra push. Eddie “Guagua” style is easily recognizable when you listen to a recording.
I had the pleasure of seeing “Guagua” play live with Luis “Perico” Ortiz and with Batacumbele. I always admired his playing style, but I especially enjoyed when he played the baby bass. He leaned on it, placing his ear so close to the strings he could almost kiss them, as if asking the bass to provide the most exquisite musical note it had in it. And it seemed as if the bass granted his requests every time.
Eddie “Guagua” Rivera in Latin Jazz
Eddie played with so many artists that I’m afraid of mentioning names. But in Latin Jazz, I remember his contributions to the recordings of Gato Barbieri, when Gato was at his peak. His contributions as founding member of Afro Caribbean Jazz fusion group Batacumbele are well known through their recordings. He also participated in the first recording of my friend Johnny Conga titled “Breaking Skin”.
I’ll Miss Eddie “Guagua” Rivera
Eddie passed away on June 2014 at the age of 66, which seems way too early. The people that knew him, loved him dearly. His way of playing bass set a standard that I hope others will emulate. So far I have not seen any takers.