Revisiting Latin Jazz Classics: Manhattan Mambo, Hilton Ruiz


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he Revisiting series features albums from the past that played a significant role in Latin Jazz history. The purpose of this series is to introduce new Latin Jazz listeners to important albums and look back at these albums in historical perspective. Each entry will jump to a different point in Latin Jazz history - this week well visit 1992.

When a Latin Jazz musician reaches their artistic prime, the future either holds possibilities or lost potential. Fueled by creative fires, the artists may write innovative compositions or explore new musical territory; hopefully they capture all this music on recordings. They may collaborate with other Latin Jazz masters, inspiring high energy and memorable performances. Opportunities most likely arise for us to hear these artists live, bringing our connection with the artists to another level. Yet,life may old insurmountable road blocks for the artist as well; family tragedies or obsessive addictions understandably distract them and diminish the quality of their output. The musician might shift their creative focus, prioritizing financial gain and commercial appeal over their original artistic track. In the worst of all possible scenarios, the artist may die before their time, leaving only the memories of their work. Artists that capture our imagination thrill us with future possibilities, but far too often musicians disappear and we are left with lost potential.

Born on May 29th, 1952 in New York City, Hilton Ruiz built his musical skills quickly at a young age. He started classical piano studies in his elementary years and performed at Carnegie Hall at the age of 8. He soon began stretching his musicality into jazz and Latin music, quickly advancing in both directions. Famed jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams worked extensively with the young Ruiz, helping him develop a strong bop repertoire. He soon started performing with Latin bands, and at the age of 14, he played on his first recording with Ray Jay and the East Siders. His career blossomed over the next few years, performing with a variety of jazz artists such as Joe Newman, Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson. Ruiz made his first serious statement as an artist with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, touring and recording on classic albums such as The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color and The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man.

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This story appears courtesy of The Latin Jazz Corner by Chip Boaz.
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