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Hilton Ruiz, Manhattan Mambo CD

Review: Manhattan Mambo

by J.J. Rassler

What’s new? Good question. With the flood of classic Latin recordings being reissued over the past few years, it can be tough keeping up with the steady flow of contemporary releases. Being a collector I have to remind myself (or be reminded by a complaining editor) to listen to what’s being done now. This, if nothing else, keeps things in perspective. Some times it pays off.

This past spring some of the biggest names in contemporary latin jazz recorded under the direction of Hilton Ruiz. A musician whose prowess on piano has placed him in such company as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, and Dizzy Gillespie. With such a substantial jazz foundation, it is no surprise Ruiz came into his own as a bandleader/composer. Drawing on his jazz orientation and cultural heritage, he continues a legacy started around the time he was born — Latin jazz. This latest release, Manhattan Mambo, draws from the 40’s and 50’s sound but is placed in a more contemporary jazz setting. The album features such front-line talents as Charlie Sepulveda, David Sanchez, and Papo Vazquez, and an equally awesome rhythm section graced with Andy Gonzalez on bass, and Ignacio Berroa, Joe Gonzalez, Steve Berrios, and the sensational Giovanni Hidalgo providing the percussion.

Only two of the selections are from outside sources. John Coltrane’s "Impressions" is given an impressive reading by Sanchez and the kickoff number, "Mambo Numero Cinco," is, of course, the Pérez Prado classic. Vazquez and Hidalgo contribute one each, the latter being a battery of percussion in the aptly titled "Giovanni Speaks." Four Ruiz compositions complete this recording. When listening to "Michael’s Mambo," Vazquez’ fiery "Overtime Mambo," or the 12 bar oriented "Home Cookin’," Ruiz' compositional confidence abounds. For those who dreamt of forging Latin rhythms with American jazz, and who nurtured it and helped it to grow, this this the fruition. Try it. You’ll like it.

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