LIVE: Otmaro Ruiz @ A Place for Jazz, 9/25/09

Otmaro Ruiz (left) and Jimmy Branly

Otmaro Ruiz (left) and Jimmy Branly

As the second installment of A Place For Jazz’s fall concert series, pianist extraordinaire Otmaro Ruiz brought his amazing quartet to the First Unitarian Society’s Whisperdome in Schenectady last Friday.

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Ruiz – along with his bandmates Ben Wendel on reeds, bassist Greg Swiller and Jimmy Branly on the drums – exploded on the stage with their own blistering, high-energy brand of original Latin jazz.

Ruiz’s music that night was not Tito Puente revisited. It was something more. It was fresh, and it was driven as much by melody as it was by percussive drum beats.

Most of the evening’s repertoire came from Ruiz’s latest 2007 release “Sojourne” on the Minia Music label, his first solo outing of original music in 10 years. Both on the recording and on the stage, Ruiz spotlighted monster saxophonist Ben Wendel who played some passages with the sweet precision of a Swiss watchmaker and attacked others with wild abandon.

Relatively unknown in the jazz world as a leader or composer, Ruiz has received a Grammy certificate for his work on Dianne Reeves’ “In the Moment: Live In Concert,” and played/toured in the bands of David Valentine, Paquito D’Rivera and Herb Alpert, among others.

Up next at A Place For Jazz, chanteuse Tierney Sutton and her trio roll into Schenectady on Friday, October 9.

Review and photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Ben Wendel (left) and Greg Swiller

Ben Wendel (left) and Greg Swiller

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