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Posts Tagged ‘CDs’

CD Review: Hilton Ruiz, “Strut”

Posted by dlockeretz on October 28, 2015

Note: This CD review is a companion to D Theory #98.

In the fall of 1990, my sophomore year in high school, I came across a CD at the library whose cover, for some strange reason, caught my attention.

Hilton Ruiz's record Figuring that if the music was one tenth as exciting as the image, I checked it out and scurried home to listen to it. It took perhaps ten seconds of the funky groove of the band’s cover of Lee Morgan’s classic, “The Sidewinder”, to get me hooked. Unlikely as it seemed, I was so enthralled by the music that I almost immediately forgot about the album cover. Not only did I love the record but it inspired me to dig further into jazz. Almost immediately I went from feeling awkward and uncomfortable with the style to a full-fledged jazz snob.

Despite the impact the record had on my life, it slowly vanished from my playlist. Over the next quarter century I started listening to music for pure enjoyment less and less, although I never fully forgot this record. Lately I found myself curious to see if it would stand up to my memory. I bought a copy on eBay (it’s also available at Amazon). Would the same record that appealed to a hormonal teenager trying to make sense of jazz resonate with a 40-year old journeyman? As the late Mr. Ruiz might have said: Sí, señor.

Powered by Ruiz’s exciting piano, a tight horn section and a rhythm section that, while sometimes busier than necessary, never lets up on the energy, this diverse collection of tunes amounts to that all-too-elusive beast: ear candy with staying power. The rocking “Sidewinder” allows each band member to introduce themselves in an hot update of Morgan’s hip ’60s track. Saxophonist Sam Rivers contributed “Bluz”, an angular be-bop melody set over a smoldering Latin groove. Two mid tempo compositions by William Allen (not a band member, perhaps a friend of Ruiz’s?) – “Soca Serenade” and “Aged in Soul” – mix up the feel, both featuring the horn section.

The two longest pieces – trombonist Dick Griffin’s “All My Love Is Yours” and the only Ruiz original, “Goin’ Back to New Orleans” at eight and almost eleven minutes respectively – wear out their welcomes. Both have fun, uptempo grooves and nice interplay between the horns but could have been trimmed to five or six minutes; one doesn’t see the development that might be expected in compositions of that length. The two ballads on the record – the short, lounge-y “Why Don’t You Steal My Blues” and dramatic solo rendition of Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” – are the final two tracks, which seems an odd choice of sequencing. Even if one were to read the 2 1/2 minute “Blues” as a prelude to “Lush Life” ending a high energy record with a ballad is anti-climatic. Thus, when listening to the record start to finish (yeah, I know, I’m old) one is left with the impression that the sum of the parts are greater than the whole.

Nevertheless, reconnecting with “Strut” has been an enjoyable experience for me. The record has long been out of print and sadly, Hilton Ruiz left us far too soon in 2006, at the age of 54. Thankfully, the music lives on and will hopefully create new generations of jazz geeks in the years to come.

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Where are they now, and where were they then: Catching up with five great artists you’ve never heard of

Posted by dlockeretz on September 7, 2012

Perhaps the title of this post could use further explanation.

Ten years ago, I wrote for a website called Muses Muse.  I reviewed independently produced CDs by bands and singer/songwriters.  The CDs people sent me ran the gamut from completely amateurish to, “Christ, why aren’t these guys signed?”  In fact, the number of very talented artists out there who were, and still are, struggling for recognition, is kind of depressing.  It reminds me of the quote attributed to Hunter S. Thompson: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

That being said, I’m pleased to report that not only do I have fond memories of listening to the music of the five artists I present below, but that according to my research, they’re all still active in the music business or at least have a substantial online presence with music still available for purchase.   Maybe they haven’t become household names – but at least they haven’t become casualties.  If you’re tired of the radio and want to hear some cool new sounds, try these artists out for size.

BILL COLGATE is an example of how certain formats–such as the weather-beaten singer/songwriter who speaks up for Everyman–are still relevant if done well.  Since I reviewed his CD “When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth”, he has independently produced two more records, and currently performs in and around his native Toronto under the name “Bill Colgate and the Urbane Guerillas.”

SHARON EDRY, now known as Sharon Goldman, breaks a lot of the stereotypes that people may have of the female singer-songwriter.  Independent without being militant, honest without being emotional, flirty without being cheap, her songs are among those rare ones that work the first time but also show staying power.  Here is my original review.

FRANK EMERSON will likely never have his songs featured on “Teen Mom” or “Say Yes to the Dress”, but that doesn’t mean he’s not worth a listen.   Part Troubadour, part Irish tenor, part storyteller, Emerson keeps traditional music alive, performing regularly throughout the Southeast.  Here is my original review of his CD.

PRIME TIME SUBLIME, also known as the Prime Time Sublime Community Orchestra (stylized as tPsCO), is a nice antidote for any listeners who feel as if they’ve heard it all.  Their mix of virtually every form of music known to man doesn’t always work, but it’s very entertaining.  Part John Zorn, part They Might Be Giants, part King Crimson, part Plastic Ono Band, part John Cage, tPsCO hasn’t released any new material since 2005, but since they still have a large online presence and their recordings are still available, they have been included on this list.  I mean, how can I not acknowledge the genius of a band who has a song called “Hannibal Lechter’s BBQ”?  Here is my original review.

CHRIS YURCHUCK describes his music as “country songs for non-country folks”, referring to the fact that while his music has a country feel, it also shows the influences of the top-40 and classic rock on which he grew up.  The universal appeal of Yurchuck’s music is evident in his having achieved placements on a wide variety of TV shows.  Here is my original review of his CD.

My other Muses Muse reviews –  favorable and unfavorable – can be seen here.

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