Efraín Mon Rivera Castillo was a bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer who came from a family of musicians in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. At an early age, he learned from his father the music and the skills that would eventually make him one of the most important musicians in history to popularize and modernize the plena, a folk genre born in the coastal regions of the island of Puerto Rico. ...MORE >
Efraín Mon Rivera Castillo was a bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer who came from a family of musicians in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. At an early age, he learned from his father the music and the skills that would eventually make him one of the most important musicians in history to popularize and modernize the plena, a folk genre born in the coastal regions of the island of Puerto Rico.
During the 1940’s, Mon was a singer in local acoustic bands. Soon thereafter, he became a member of Moncho Leña’s band with whom he moved to New York City in 1953, where he later played with the orchestra of José Curbelo. By the early 1960’s, Mon formed his own band and was the first to create the front line and roaring trombone sound that became the trademark of New York salsa during the '60s and '70s.
Mon continued to record and perform with his band during the '60s, but by the beginning of the '70s Mon’s popularity waned, along with his health. Because of his health and drug addiction problems, Mon returned to Puerto Rico. Producer and record collector, Rafael Viera, rescued his friend Mon, whom he regards as one of the most complete musicians I have known, and in 1974 contacted the Fania label to arrange a new record project for Mon. This was quite a revival of Mon Rivera’s career, since it occurred right in the middle of the Salsa boom. Willie Colón gathered some of the best musicians of the Fania label to record “There Goes The Neighborhood,” including percussionist Kako on timbales and quinto, Brazilian trombone player José Rodriguez (of Eddie Palmieri fame), Jewish trombonist Lewis Khan (from Larry Harlow's band), and members of Willie Colon’s band such as Milton Cardona on congas and José Mangual on bongos. According to Viera, the match with Willie Colón was a natural one because Willie was at the peak of his career, exploring the possibilities of the trombone sound that Mon had created. It was Colón’s way of honoring one of his musical heroes.
The cover art for “There Goes The Neighborhood” was by Ron Levine, who was famous for many covers of classic salsa albums. This cover places Colón and Rivera right in the middle of a neighborhood populated by famous artist and some fictional characters. “There Goes The Neighborhood ” gave Mon the worldwide recognition that he deserved and is now a classic album of bomba and plena, the two main genres of Afro based music to be found in Puerto Rico.
The bomba has the stronger African roots as it flourished among the black slaves working in the sugar cane plantations during the 18th century. Traditionally, the rhythm is performed using barrel shaped drums, although the congas and horns were later incorporated. “Pena De Amor” (a composition by Tite Curet Alonso) and “Baila Mi Bomba” are bombas.
In contrast, plena is said to have emerged as the musical newspaper of the barrio, and Mon Rivera was an excellent composer of songs interpreting everyday life, so plena is the main ingredient in “There Goes The Neighborhood”. The album includes songs that were instant hits all over Latin American, and that today are considered standards in the genre. “Julia Lee” tells the story about a black character in the streets of San Juan. The two “Mosaicos” are medleys of Mon Rivera’s famous songs like "Qué Será" and "Askarakatiskis." Curet Alonso, one of salsa’s most prolific composers, contributed “La Humanidad” and “Tinguilikitín.” “Ya Llegó” is an autobiographical song written for Mon by singer Felito Félix.
Listen to Mon Rivera’s quick-fire singing throughout the album, and you will know why he became The Tongue Twister King, a skill that he learned from his father. The recognition of Mon’s talent led to reissues of his earlier albums, but “There Goes The Neighborhood” is central to any comprehensive discography of Latin music.
José Rodriguez – Trombone
Ed Byrne – Trombone
Lewis Kahn – Trombone
Willie Colón – Solos
Eddie Rivera – Bass
Papo Lucca – Piano
Kako – Timbales and Quinto
Milton Cardona – Congas
José Mangual – Bongos
Mon Rivera – Güiro
Lead Vocals – Mon Rivera
Coro - Rubén Blades, Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoé, Fe Ortiz
Arranged By: Mon Rivera, Willie Colón ("Pena De Amor," "Tingyiulikitin," "Julia Lee") and Jorge Millet ("Se Te Quemó La Casa)
Produced By: Willie Colón
Executive Producers: Jerry Masucci, Rafael Viera, Franklin Hernández
Recorded At: Good Vibrations Sound Studios, NYC
Engineer: Jon Fausty
Original Art & Design: Ron Levine
Original Photography: Lee Marshal