Of course this recording is shaped by the musicians whom Hilton Ruiz attracted for this project. Involved intensity is the watchwords of this album. This is uppermost not only in the ethos of Mr. Ruiz’s playing, but is also intensified in the performances of the playing of luminaries such as Tito Puente, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, Steve Turre, Ignacio Berroa, Andy González and, indeed, every other musician who shared centre-stage with Hilton Ruiz here. Each has helped to raise the stakes differently; each has shaped the music with his own special instrumental rhetoric, used to accentuate the nervy force of the programme, also bringing a rhythmically pliable, but expansively shaped musicianship that accentuates the spaciousness of the music.
Speaking of programmes, these nine songs could not have been bettered in any way, shape or form. Each pays tribute to some of Hilton Ruiz’s “heroes” and each is played not just with reverence, but also with a joy that underlines musical relationships that suggest a worshipfulness of equals. Best of all, after all the pyrotechnics and all of the dazzling virtuosity of pianist, horns and percussion is said and done, what remains is music lit from within by a deep, quiet, human warmth. This is rare in music of tribute where the tribute is sometimes subsumed by the technical abilities of the musicians making the tribute. And mind you, each of these musicians is an unqualified master in his own right, answerable to no one; none at all. This makes the contributions of each of the musicians to the programme all the more significant.
Of course, Hilton Ruiz is not one to hide his own abilities under a bushel. His musicianship is lit by superb technique with emotion to match. His playing is harmonically advanced and he makes his lines leap in ecstatic ellipses as befits a magnificent pianistic mind that finds release in a superbly obedient body with endless subtlety in toe. His playing is also often unadorned and informed by spare mesmeric phrasing, subtle dynamics and choices that come from his personality that enables him to dispense with the matters on hand with ripe, tumbling chords. All of this imbues this record with a certain memorability that is rare in music of dedication and, indeed in music per se. For these and other extra-musical reasons this record is an essential recording.
Track List – Sonny’s Mood; Guataca; Little Suede Shoes; Lover Man; For Max; Maiden Voyage; Con Alma; Tune Up; Praise.
Personnel – Hilton Ruiz: piano; Steve Berrios: timbales; Ignacio Berroa: drums; Andy González: bass; Joe González: bongos; Giovanni Hidalgo: congas (2, 5 & 6); Tito Puente: vibraphone (2 & 4) and timbales (8); David Sánchez: tenor saxophone; Charlie Sepúlveda: trumpet; Steve Turre: trombone; Carlos “Patato” Valdés: congas (2, 3, 4, & 8).
Released – 1994
Label – Telarc Jazz
Runtime – 60:58