May 29 marked the birth date of Puerto Rican jazz musician Hilton Ruiz (1952 – 2006) as well as the release of his last album, Hilton’s Last Note (2009). As James Nadal explains, Hilton’s Last Note is the record he started out to make but did not live to complete. Ruiz [also see The Late Hilton Ruiz, Latin Jazz Musician] died tragically on June 6, 2006 while on a visit to New Orleans to work on an album that was meant to be a tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This final recording, released posthumously by the late pianist’s daughter, Aida Ruiz, captures the images and essence of New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane.
In his review, Nadal buoyantly describes some of the pieces in this last album, including tributes to Ruiz done by other musicians, such as flautist Carlos Jimenez, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, drummer Dafnis Prieto, cuatro player Yomo Toro, and most poignantly, Ruiz’s own daughter, who has added a short flute homage to her father in “Hilton’s Melody.” The album offers a variety of rhythms attesting to Ruiz’s versatility and virtuosity, moving from charanga and samba to the blues, with touches of calypso, bop, and montuno. The album highlights Ruiz’s “masterful display of infinite skills and technique.”
Says Nadal, “Hilton Ruiz left us much too soon. Those who took the time to listen to his music are better for it, and yet are left with a void. Ruiz was a brilliant pianist with a versatility and passion seldom heard. That is what makes Hilton’s Last Note so special.”
Hilton’s Last Note is available through www.hiltonruizmusic.com.