Johnny Cruz: You always can count with friends

Column by Johnny Cruz

I want to congratulate Gilberto Santa Rosa for a great job done with his first Virtual concert “Canta Mundo” to inaugurate the Coca-Cola Music Hall in El Distrito, located near the Puerto Rico Convention Center, in Miramar. Gilberto offered a magnificent a virtual live concert with his band of Puerto Rican musicians. This is the first time, since the emergency began in Puerto Rico due to the pandemic created by COVID-19, that this modern room was activated to present a live concert recorded live, especially for Rums of Puerto Rico, and that they have chosen such an extraordinary artist for the inauguration was without a doubt a great success. After much expectation, the Coca Cola Music Hall had its opening in a totally different way than imagined, with a concert that did not have the presence of the public or applause between songs, due to the limitations imposed by the COVID pandemic- 19. Gilberto Santa Rosa was entrusted to offer the first recital in the space. Both the singer and his musicians took all possible security measures to prevent the spread of the disease, but obviously, without the use of masks that would prevent them from playing their instruments or singing. The concert “Canta Mundo” continues online so that the millions of Gilberto fans throughout the world become intimate audiences in their favorite spaces, you will surely enjoy it. The event was exclusively presented by Rums of Puerto Rico, and can be seen through the social networks of Gilberto Santa Rosa, as well as those of Coca-Cola Music Hall and Rums of Puerto Rico.

I send a warm greeting to my good friend Jerry Rivas, singer of “El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico” since April 19, 1977, who now shares hits and music with his son Gerardo Rivas. In 1977 Andy Montañez, the lead vocal of the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, announced his departure from the orchestra. Many saw the group debacle coming. When everyone expected to see an experienced singer, the always-wise director Rafael Ithier found a young singer to suit his group’s style. The chosen one was a young man of just 21 years: Jerry Rivas. A shy Jerry Rivas presented himself with a cassette recorded with the music of the first groups that he joined for a short time, the musicians of the Gran Combo, looked at him suspiciously. Ithier, with his traditional good humor, contained his musicians with these words: “you rest easy, it is a black painted white”. On April 19, 1977, Jerry began singing with El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. Jerry Rivas’ first performance was “Buscando Ambiente” at El Club Caborrojeño de Guaynabo and his first international success was “La Clave y el Bongó”. Rivas, self-taught and who in addition to singing plays guitar, cuatro and cuban tres guitar, remembers that as a young man he was a rocker, but he was struck by the joy that the members of the Gran Combo projected in their dances and choreography. In his long career with El Gran Combo, Jerry Rivas, has become a renowned sonero and one of the oldest members of the Universidad de la Salsa, has recorded 30 albums with the group and many of the greats were recorded in his voice. hits from the orchestra, such as “Y No Hago Más Na”, “El Menú”, “Azuquita pa’l Café”, “Que me lo Den en Vida”, “Ojitos Chinos”, “Me Liberé”, among many others. The Gran Combo was the key to success for Jerry, who thanks Quique Lucca, founder of Sonora Ponceña, for his recommendation that Ithier give him the opportunity to audition. His talent was passed on to his sons, who became Los Rockolos as children. Today, Gerardo begins his solo career, and Jerry Junior together with Samuel conducts the Los Rivas Orchestra organized more than a decade ago. Gerardo always affirms that no matter how many differences they may have, music unites them. He revealed on some occasion that his father did not want him to dedicate his life to popular music due to the strong and unstable environment, the risks and swings of the artistic world. However, when Jerry looks at them during rehearsals and on stage, he is proud and always advises them to be responsible, avoid the negative and assimilate the positive. Recently, the vocalist of El Gran Combo joined with his son, also singer Gerardo Rivas, and his grandson Gerardo Gabriel to carry a musical message to his followers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19). The trio came together to perform a classic by the legendary salsa orchestra, Mente Positiva. “In difficult times, the best we can do is carry a positive message,” wrote Gerardo, also a member of NG2, in his social media. Rivas father was in charge of the Cuban tres guitar, Gerardo Gabriel of the key and the maracas and Rivas son interpreted the theme. It is not the first time that they have joined this quarantine to delight their followers with a musical number.

I applaud the initiative of Pedro Oggie García as CEO of Salsa Artist Booking Entertainment Group (SAB), who with his daily work supports all the salseros in the world at SAB is the company specialized in the digital coding of music, administration, promotion and representation of Artists of the Salsa genre, With an experience of more than 30 years in the media and with relationships worldwide, always characterized by our responsibility, seriousness and compliance. Using their experience, international relations and positioning, they will make your musical work a success. Always taking care of their interests and rights, trying to take the artists and their music where their public requires it. Contact them +1 956-442-0099

I would like to share with you my admiration for José Mangual Jr. “El Campanero Mayor”, who is an American percussionist, of Puerto Rican origin, son of also percussionist José Mangual Sr. He was born in New York on January 11, 1948 and has a trajectory of almost half a century in Salsa. His contribution to this genre began in the mid-sixties in his native city, when he joined the group of Monguito Santamaría, son of the great percussionist Ramón “Mongo” Santamaría. He also played with La Conspiración. He was part of Tony Pabón’s band, which marked the beginning of his role as a singer. On the LP “La protesta”, recorded in 1972 for the Rico Records label, José Mangual Jr. sang the song “San Miguel”. In 1971 he joined the Willie Colón band, and since the singer was Héctor Lavoe, José participated in the best and biggest albums recorded by that great duo. Mangual Jr. also recorded with Rubén Blades on some of the most representative albums in the Panamanian singer’s musical career. His talent has allowed him to be making simultaneous recordings with other groups, musicians and singers, such as Ismael Miranda, Mon Rivera, Frankie Dante, Ismael Quintana, Celia Cruz and the Willard Orchestra, conducted by Willie Pastrana. In 1977 he launched as a soloist, recording with his own group the album titled Tribute To Chano Pozo, and so far, he has around twenty of his own albums. These are added to almost thirty recordings with Willie Colón, Rubén Blades and Héctor Lavoe. But they are only part of the huge list of his recordings with other orchestras, musicians and singers. His meritorious career has allowed him to travel to many countries of the world alongside countless great musicians and singers, and become an example of dedication and love for music. This has also allowed him to make friends around the world who admire, love, respect; and be with him in important moments, triumphs, defeats and also in goodbyes … José Mangual Jr. lost his grandson Tyrell Bryant a few weeks ago to the covid-19. I extend my heartfelt words of condolence for such an irreparable loss, and reiterate my unconditional support for the entire family at this difficult time. You are not alone! I dedicate special tribute to his grandson Tyrell Bryant who always be present in our hearts. RIP 04/04/1992 – 04/18/2020.

My friends, I need you know that we continue working hand in hand with prominent artists from New York and Puerto Rico on the CD dedicated to maestro Adalberto Santiago on his 60th Anniversary. I promise to have more details about this fantastic musical production very soon.

I appreciate the support of Carl Cristiano, L&S Custom Tailors and cKc for my TV Show outfits and my public performances. Tailored suits with total care and confidence. Contact them, I recommend them with pleasure. Address: 138 E 61st Street Suite 201. New York, NY 10065. Phone: +1 212 752 16 38.

Don’t forget tune in to my new Fm / Internet radio station on Salsagallery. Great music, artist interviews and much more made with love for you all. There is the link:

Although yet It will not be possible to open to the public the Spanish Harlem Salsa Gallery in 1708 Lexington ave New York N.Y. 10029, you can see the entire exhibition with more than 200 articles through our social media. Check the updates in our website:

New York City is slowly returning to normal. We hope to be sharing with you physically again, but now we follow the instructions of the authorities to keep us safe and healthy.

Contact: Johnny Cruz. 917-747-8505.