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Jason Crane Posts

Game 1 is in the books

My co-workers and I just went to the Pig & Whistle in downtown Rochester to eat meat and watch Germany play Costa Rica. If you like really, really loud country music playing throughout the game, the Pig is your place. If you’d rather be in the company of people who know that a game is being played, you’re probably better off at Monty’s Korner, on the corner of East Ave and Alexander St. They’re showing all 64 games on a wide-screen TV with the sound on. What a novel idea!

Despite the less than ideal P&W environment, it was great to see the opening match. I’ll leave off the score, for the one person reading this who taped the game, but suffice it to say it was a good time for all.

Now it’s just four hours until the first set of music at the 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival. I’ll be at Charlie Hunter in Kilbourn Hall at 6 p.m., followed by a bit of Woody Allen, then Djabe in the Big Tent at 8:30 p.m., followed by Mahavishnu Project at 10 p.m. and the jam session at the Crowne to finish things off.

Day 1 is well under way! Huzzah!

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Wisdom from Walden

“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.” – from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

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Hilton Ruiz, R.I.P.

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – Jazz pianist and composer Hilton Ruiz, who came to New Orleans to work on a Hurricane Katrina benefit recording, died early Tuesday, his agent and manager said.

Ruiz, who turned 54 on May 29, had been comatose at East Jefferson General Hospital since he fell early May 19 in front of a French Quarter bar.

He died about 3:50 a.m. Tuesday, agent Joel Chriss said in a telephone interview from New York.

Ruiz, of Teaneck, N.J., has been described as one of the most versatile musicians in jazz, playing bop, Afro-Cuban, stride and many other styles.

“He’s one of the few musicians on the scene that is equally at home in both the jazz genre and the Afro-Cuban genre in a complete sense. … He really can play the blues, too. For real,” trombone player Steve Turre, who had known Ruiz since 1975, said in an interview the week after Ruiz fell. “There’s a lot of people who dabble with both worlds. But very few can authentically deal with both. And he’s one of them. That’s your rarity.”

He described Ruiz as a complex man and a brilliant musician, a pianist, composer and bandleader of genius.

Ruiz came to New Orleans with Marco Matute, a producer for the M27 World label, to shoot video to go along with a Hurricane Katrina benefit compact disc of New Orleans music, attorney Mary Howell said before his death. They arrived May 18, she said.

“They spent the whole day filming, riding in carriages, talking to people about New Orleans,” She said.

She said Ruiz “got very involved in the situation here” after playing in a New York benefit concert for the hurricane’s victims.

The family has been “inundated with calls from people wanting to help.” They asked for prayers; an account to help pay Ruiz’ medical expenses was set up, Howell said.

Trained in classical music as well as jazz, Ruiz played at Carnegie Recital Hall when he was 8 years old. His teachers included jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams; in his early 20s, he and Turre both worked with saxophone player Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

In an interview with Ted Panken, for liner notes on his 2003 CD, “Enchantment,” Ruiz said Kirk – known, among other things, for playing a saxophone and two of its turn-of-the-century cousins at once – nurtured and demanded versatility.

“All the music I enjoyed was part of the Rahsaan experience,” Ruiz told Panken. “He played the music of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Real down-home blues, as they’re called. The great composers of classical music. Music from all over the world – Africa, the Orient, the Middle East. We had to play all these musical flavors every night.”

He was playing with Latin groups in his early teens. His first recording, at age 14, was with a group called Ray Jay and the East Siders. While still in his teens, Ruiz worked with tenor saxophonists Frank Foster and Joe Henderson and trumpeters Joe Newman, Freddie Hubbard and Cal Massey.

“I was pretty lucky in being exposed to a lot of different kinds of music, and studying them with good teachers,” he said, quoted in a biography on the Telarc International Corp.’s Web site.

The many musicians with whom he worked included Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus.

He was among musicians featured on the 1997 video The Best of Latin Jazz, and his song “Something Grand” is part of the American Beauty soundtrack.

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Billy Preston, R.I.P.

Billy’s passing


The great singer-songwriter and performer Billy Preston, the real “Fifth Beatle” has died after a long illness as a result of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. As a result of a medical insult he’d been in a deep coma since last November 21st, but was still struggling to recover. He died at Shea Scottsdale Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona where he’d lived for the last couple of years.

Billy was called the Fifth Beatle because he played keyboards on Let it Be, The White Album and Abbey Road. He also played on the Rolling Stones’s hit song Miss You, and often played with Eric Clapton. He also did the organ work on Sly & the Family Stone’s greatest hits. Preston’s own hits included “Nothing from Nothing,” “Will it Go Round in Circles,” and “You Are So Beautiful,” which Joe Cocker turned into an international hit.

Preston was actually mentored by Ray Charles, and acts like Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, and James Cleveland had a huge impact on him at a young age. In the early 60s, Billy went to Europe with Little Richard who playing in Hamburg. The Beatles were the opening act and as the story goes he was the one who made sure they got fed.

His friendship with them lasted through the 1960s and he was the first act signed to Apple Records thanks to George Harrison. The resulting album is called “That’s the Way God Planned It.” In 1971, Preston played in “The Concert for Bangla Desh.” Last year, in one of his final appearances, he performed at a renuion in Los Angeles for the release of the Bangla Desh DVD with Ringo and Harrison’s son Dhani on guitar.

More recently, Billy can be heard on the latest albums by Neil Diamond and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s also featured on the Starbucks soul album “Believe to My Soul” featuring Mavis Staples and Ann Peebles.

I had the good fortune to know Billy the last few years, and saw him perform–as chronicled in this column–last August at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and last October at the Atlantis in the Bahamas. He was one of those spectacular performers who put everything into his show even though he had no working kidneys by then and was receiving dialysis. He was a warm, wonderful human being with a mile wide smile. He was also a genius musician, the likes of whom we will not see again.

Rest in peace, Billy. You deserve it.


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