He may not be a household name, but over the last few decades Mark Rivera has toured and recorded with some of the biggest stars in music. Since 1982, the multitalented musician has been the saxophone player in Billy Joel‘s backing group and he also serves as music director of the current edition of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.
Rivera’s also contributed to well-known recordings by Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Foreigner and Hall & Oates, but he’d never released an album of his own…until now. Mark’s debut studio effort, Common Bond, hits stores today and it features guest appearances from Starr and Joel, as well as a few other famous artists.
The 10-track album features seven songs co-written by Rivera, plus covers of Jimi Hendrix‘s “Spanish Castle Magic” and the 1970 Fleetwood Mac tune “Tell Me All the Things You Do.” In addition to showcasing his saxophone skills, Mark also displays his talents as a singer, flute player, keyboardist, percussionist and guitarist on the record.
So why did it take Rivera so long to put out his first solo album?
“By the grace of God, I was very busy,” he tells ABC News Radio. “I’d try to do [the album] and then every time I would, as luck would have it, and it was good luck, I got another gig, so I went out and played.”
Starr appears on a song Rivera co-wrote called “Money Money Money,” and Mark tells ABC News Radio that, for someone whose life was changed by The Beatles, having Ringo playing on his album was a mind-blowing experience.
“Ringo playing drums on one of my songs is…musically it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given,” he declares. “I love him, I can’t say enough about him, and he’s playing on one of my songs…It’s incredible.”
Rivera also was excited that Joel agreed to be on the record. Rather have him play piano, Mark asked Billy to play the organ on his rendition of “Spanish Castle Magic.”
With regard to having Joel serve as a session man, Rivera says, “It was great…I’m in there saying, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good. Let’s run it by one more time,’ like who the hell am I? But it was wonderful.”
Other stars featured on Common Bond include longtime E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, who’s been playing with Rivera in Ringo’s band.
One of the biggest revelations of Common Bond may be just how strong a singer Rivera is. While most people know him for his saxophone talents, Mark say he also has plenty of experience as a vocalist.
“It was something I just did,” he tells ABC News Radio. “I mean, I sang background with Foreigner and we were singing stuff like ‘Jukebox Hero’ and all these really hard vocals, and I just loved it.”
Rivera is hoping to schedule some solo shows to support Common Bond, although he has yet to announce any confirmed dates. Fans can see him when he hits the stage with Joel at the Piano Man’s upcoming concerts this year. You can check those dates out at MarkRivera.com/Events.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio