Mention the name Humberto Ramírez to Latin Jazz fans, and it’s his virtuosic, hard bop- rooted skill as a trumpet soloist and leader of his innovative group that will quickly come to mind. Aficionados of contemporary tropical latin dance music will instantly recognize his contributions as an arranger, composer and producer for such tropical music icons such as Willie Rosario, Tony Vega, Olga Tañón, Marc Anthony, India, Rubén Blades, Cheo Feliciano, Willie Colón, Brenda K. Starr, Roberto Roena and a multitude of other salsa luminaries. He brings to Latin Jazz the very best of many different musical genres to create a unique musical style.
Ramírez grew up in a household steeped in the music of Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Machito, Cal Tjader, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. His father, a saxophone player and bandleader inspired a young Humberto to take up the flugelhorn at age 11. By age 14, Humberto was already performing professionally with his father’s band and taking orchestration courses with bass player Inocencio “Chencho” Rivera. At age 18, after graduating from Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, he pursued a career in music enrolling at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree with a Major in Jazz Composition and Arranging in 1984. He also studied Film Music Composition at Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, California.
After getting his college education, Humberto returned to Puerto Rico and in 1985 began working with Master timbalero and band leader Willie Rosario, one of the most popular salsa orchestras at the time. In 1989 he became musical director for salsa sensation Tony Vega and in 1999 musical director for tropical music star Olga Tañón. During that period he established himself as one of the top producers /composers/arrangers in the industry collaborating also with reaggeton artists such as Daddy Yankee, Tito El Bambino and Zion showing his proven ear working with different musical styles.
His dream was always to develop a career as a Jazz musician. In 1992 he released his first recording as a leader for the Tropijazz Label, Jazz Project. He has since shared the stage or has recorded with Jazz and Latin Jazz greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Gómez, Alex Acuña, Chick Corea, Justo Almario, McCoy Tyner, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tito Puente, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Michel Camilo, Dave Valentín, Hilton Ruiz, Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Santos, Gato Barbieri, Terence Blanchard, Chucho Valdés, Stanley Clarke, Ray Barretto, Gato Barbieri, Eddie Palmieri, Mario Rivera and Herb Alpert with whom he recorded the album Passion Dance, as well as joining him on Alpert’s 1997 world tour.
His music has received unprecedented attention from major publications and music journals including, Down Beat, Jazz Times, New York Daily News, Jazziz, CD Review, Latin Beat, The Plain Dealer, The Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Austin Chronicle, USA Today and Hispanic Magazine. He has 26 recordings as a leader where he has performed with many ensemble formats, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, octets, strings orchestra, and his favorite, Big Bands.
In 2005 he founded Nilpo Music, his own record label. Based in Puerto Rico the label only releases Jazz recordings. In 2008 he started performing every week with his Big Band in a one of a kind event. Today Big Band Mondays is a huge success in Puerto Rico where every Monday night music lovers listen to the unique sound of a Big Band live. He also produces his own Jazz Festival every year the last weekend of January, Puerto Rico Jazz Jam at legendary and beautiful Tapia Theater in Old San Juan and his radio show airs live every Wednesday at 7PM on WORO 92.5FM in Puerto Rico, Jazz Intimo con Humberto Ramírez.
Humberto has received four Grammy nominations for his production work including Willie Rosario Nueva Cosecha in 1986, Willie Colón Hecho in Puerto Rico in 1993, Tony Vega in 1996 and Olga Tañón Olga Viva, Viva Olga in 2000. He won the Grammy in 2000 with Olga Tañón’s album. He received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2013 for his album Sentimentales with Lucy Fabery. Other awards include, twelve gold records, six platinum records, four Visionary awards and one Ampex Golden Reel award. He has also had the honor to play at the White House for President Bill Clinton in 1997 and for President Barack Obama in 2009.
Over the years Humberto Ramírez has showed that his music is a portrait of Latin Jazz roots, its place in the music world today and what the future holds for the genre.
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