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Staff Report

NEW YORK, 6 June 2006 —Famed Puerto Rican/New York Composer, Pianist and Jazz musician Hilton Ruiz passed away this morning at 3:51 a.m. at the East Jefferson General Hospital, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was still on life support when he peacefully expired.  His daughter and wife, both named Aida, were by his side.

Hilton Ruiz, 54,  had been in a coma at the New Orleans hospital Intensive Care Unit with severe trauma to the face and a fractured skull. The circumstances surrounding this tragic incident are under investigation by the New Orleans Police Department. The jazz and Latin virtuoso had been in New Orleans to promote a recording in aid of victims of Hurricane Katrina .

One of the finest pianists in Afro-Cuban jazz, Hilton Ruiz was also a striking player of boogie-woogie and bop.

Born in New York City on May 29, 1952, Ruiz was a child prodigy, appearing on the Sandy Becker television show, performing at Carnegie Recital Hall at the age of eight, and playing in an accordion symphony at nine. Well-trained in all areas, he studied classical piano as well as Latin and received jazz guidance from the great Mary Lou Williams. "I was pretty lucky," he says, "in being exposed to a lot of different kinds of music, and studying them with good teachers."

By his early teens, Ruiz was working with a variety of Latin soul bands and, at age 14, recorded with a group called Ray Jay and the East Siders. But jazz was always close to his heart, and his obviously superlative improvisational skills quickly opened doors. Before he was twenty, Ruiz had worked with Frank Foster, Joe Newman, Cal Massey, Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson—an impressive list for an established player, a remarkable list for a relative newcomer. Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, Tito Puente, Clark Terry, Ismael Rivera, Mongo Santamaria, George Coleman and so many others. He was a Student of the Great Jazz Master, Mary Lou Williams.

As a composer, Hilton Ruiz' music was featured in Woody Allen's film Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and in Sam Mendes's American Beauty (1999).

A short discography includes:

2005 Tribute to Puente
2003 Enchantment
1997 Island Eyes
1994 Hands on Percussion
1993 Heroes
1993 Excitation
1992 Manhattan Mambo
1992 Live at Birdland
1991 A Moment's Notice
1989 Doin' It Right
1988 El Camino [The Road]
1988 Strut
1986 Something Grand
1984 Cross Currents
1981 Live at Jazz Unite
1977 New York Hilton
1977 Steppin' Into Beauty
1976 Rhythm in the House
1975 Piano Man


Photo courtesy of Verve Records

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