Angelina Rivera

Angelina Rivera

She was born in Arecibo on October 28 of 1901.

Early in 1919 Will Marion Cook invited clarinetist Anthony Rivera (born Juncos, 1877 or 1878) and his two daughters, violinist Angelina and bass violinist Santos (born 1898 or 1899), to join the New York Syncopated Orchestra. A few months later the orchestra left for its first successful tour of Britain under the name the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.
It was on that same year when she married pianist Pierre De Caillaux. This was the orchestra that included Sidney Bechet (and George Smith among other changing violinists) and about which Ernst-Alexandre Ansermet wrote so perceptively. The orchestra and chorus included many women but one contemporary press photo only depicts twenty-eight men, including three violinists. In fact, it is known from printed concert programs that Angelina Rivera was not at first employed as a violinist but as a member of the chorus. Later programs list her, and photos show her, among the violinists. When the orchestra regrouped in 1921, under a new musical director, Rivera was also a member for a time and James Boucher was also one of the violinists. Other photos are now known, from 1919 and 1921, which do depict Angelina Rivera.

Rivera returned to the US sometime after the SSO’s 1919 and 1921 tours.
Her presence in New York between the SSO in the UK and her 1926 Baker recordings in Paris is confirmed by Duke Ellington writing in Music Is My Mistress (1974):
"We first knew him [banjoist Freddy Guy] when he was leader of a small band that played in a joint on 135th Street owned by Earl Dancer. [Thought at first to be the Oriental in Harlem but see Billboard fol.] He had Fats Waller in the band and a beautiful chick named Angelina Rivera, who was a fine violinist".

The four Joséphine Baker titles on which Rivera can be heard are: “I Love My Baby”, “I[’ve] Found a New Baby”, “Skeedle Um” and “Always”. They are available on CD Document DOCD 5652 Joséphine Baker, 1926–1927. Spencer Williams, the pianist on the session, who wrote most of the material for Baker’s shows of the period, is the composer of “Skeedle Um” and co-composer, with words by Jack Palmer, of “I[’ve] Found a New Baby”.

In 2007 Mark Miller found the following report from J. A. Jackson, “Here and There Among the Folks” in Billboard (23 June 1923):

Earl Dancer, onetime member of the team of Dancer and Green, is now operating the Golden Gate Club, performers’ rendevous, on West 135 Street, New York. Freckles and his jazz band provide the music, with Angelito Riviera [sic], violinist, as soloist. Russell Lee is doing the singing.

Ada Bricktop Smith, who helped Ellington secure his first break in New York, writes in Bricktop (1983) of an occasion at her Paris club that can be dated c.1926–1927:

Jascha Heifetz would often borrow a violin from one of the musicians and play. I’ll never forget the night he was in the club and I had a new girl violinist named Angelina. I liked changing the acts around. I hired Angelina because she played the violin very well and it was something a little bit different. She wasn’t exactly right for Bricktop’s, and I made it my business to introduce her myself. That night she couldn’t help noticing that there was a very distinguished gentleman at a front table who applauded longer and more loudly than anyone else when she played. She finally signaled me to meet her in the ladies room. “Who is that man?” she wanted to know. “Jascha Heifetz,” I answered. I watched Angelina faint dead away.

In 1927, Bricktop organized a band for an engagement in Berlin that was cancelled at the last minute, so she returned to USA from Southampton on September 14 of 1927.
Returned again to Europe and back again to USA on February 22 of 1930, by which time she had reverted to her birth name. She attended a breakfast party for Duke Ellington at Smalls in New York on May of 1930 with her sister.

Nothing is known to what happened to Angelina Rivera after May of 1930.


Angelina Rivera Discography Tracks

Instruments & Performance

49.224, 49.225 Joséphine Baker* Joséphine Baker* - Always / I Love My Baby(Shellac, 10") Odeon, Odeon 49.224, 49.225 France 1926 Sell This Version
XABCD1-X025 Various I Love My Baby (as Angelita Rivera) and 1 more… Various - Baby, Ain'tcha Satisfied? - On The Air & Rare(CDr, Comp, Ltd, Num) AB Fable XABCD1-X025 UK 2012 Sell This Version