The styles of Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond were early influences on his playing . He learned mainly from listening to recordings and the "Willis Conover Jazz Hour", a radio show broadcast on the Voice Of America. From 1960 he studied at the conservatory in Havana, where he met Chucho Valdes, who became the main influence on his career. He played in musical theater from the age of 14 and during his army service (from 1965) where he was a member of the army band. He then joined the Orquestra Cubana de Musica Moderna, the members which of which in 1973 formed the basis of the group, Irakere.
During a tour of Europe in 1980, D'Rivera defected while the band was in Spain; where he moved to New York. There he played with David Amram, Dizzy Gillespie, and McCoy Tyner and began a true turning point in his musical career. He later formed his own group which toured the USA, Europe, and South America while also performing as a studio musician in New York.
D'Rivera is considered one of the foremost Latin American bop Saxophonists of his time. While being note in mainstream jazz for his alto instrument he also plays soprano saxophone, flute and flugelhorn. Currently, D'Rivera is the acting artistic director of jazz programming for the New Jersey chamber of music society (NJCMS).
Astounding us with his latest Heads Up CD release, "100 Years of Latin Songs", D'Rivera's reeds, alto sax, soprano sax and clarinet - glide through Bob Belden's string arrangements on a serene disc that spotlights what the leader considers a neglected side of Latin American Music.
"100 Years of Latin Love Songs" is a stylistic bounty composed of idiomatic music from nine countries. The CD begins with a 1905 tango and closes with a 70s Salsa piece. A blissful trip down Latin Lane with some great scenery for the ears to enjoy.