At this point, Latin Jazz has a long and varied history; while we still have a number of important figures that contributed to the creation of the music with us, a larger number of those folks have left us. Some musicians passed the test of time and stayed with us over the long haul of a lifetime career. Others fell to some sort of tragedy that took them away from us much too soon. Regardless of the details behind their passing, we can’t deny the importance of the work that they did while they were with us. Even though we may not be able to experience their music in a live setting anymore, it’s important that we never forget those folks, continuing to remember how they shaped the music that we know and love.
Pianist Hilton Ruiz was an important figure in Latin Jazz throughout the seventies, eighties, and nineties, who unfortunately died much too young. A child prodigy, Ruiz studied classical piano diligently, and then dived head first into jazz studies with Mary Lou Williams. He performed with a number of jazz musicians around New York, and then hit the world stage when he got a gig with Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He stayed with Kirk for four years, recording some classic albums like The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man, and then moved onto support a number of high profile artists like Betty Carter and Freddie Hubbard. He started recording his own albums in the late seventies, leaning towards Latin Jazz, and collaborating with musicians like Tito Puente and Paquito D’Rivera. In next two decades, Ruiz became an important part of New York’s Latin Jazz scene, contributing a number of classic compositions to the genre and turning out several albums both as a leader and sideman. He passed away in 2006 after an accident in New Orleans, at the young age of 54.
During his years in the Latin Jazz world, Ruiz touched a number of musicians, including flautist Andrea Brachfeld. Performing alongside conguero Chembo Corniel, Brachfeld pays tribute to Ruiz in this video with a song called “Cha Cha Blue.” It’s a spirited performance, that resonates with the lively and influential memory of Hilton Ruiz.
Check out Andrea Brachfeld’s Website
Check out Hilton Ruiz’s Website
Check out Chembo Corniel’s Website
Check out some recordings from Andrea Brachfeld, Hilton Ruiz, & Chembo Corniel:
Hands On Percussion, Hilton Ruiz
Check Out These Related Posts:
Album Of The Week: Hilton’s Last Note, Hilton Ruiz
Latin Jazz JAM Session #11: Live At Birdland, Hilton Ruiz
Latin Jazz Standards: 10 Versions Of Mambo Inn
4 Latin Jazz Flautists Bringing The Instrument Into The Forefront