TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 7, 2015) – USF School of Music Ph.D. candidate Jose Valentino Ruiz produced an album this year that has emerged as a 16th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards nominee for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Ruiz wrote eight of the tracks, arranged four,
wrote the album notes and created the artwork
for the album's cover.
Ruiz’s “I Make You Want to Move” features his group, the Latin Jazz Ensemble and the legendary percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo along with USF College of Music master’s student Giovanni Perez, freshman Jesse Pitts and fellow Ph.D. student Bruno Miranda. This is his second album.
A multi-instrumentalist – flute, saxophone, bass, keyboards and percussion – Ruiz played the roles of head producer, head engineer, composer, arranger and band leader, plus he sang, wrote the album notes and created the artwork for the cover. Is it any surprise that eight of the tracks are original compositions while four were arranged by him as well?
He didn’t have to travel far to perform all of these roles. The album was produced and engineered, using the software programs GarageBand and Logic Pro X, at his home studio, Crossmatch Vamp Studios, which he describes as essentially his bedroom and living room.
The same goes for the other participants who include not only the GRAMMY-winning Hidalgo, but also four-time GRAMMY-winning engineer Carlson Barrios.
“Through the wonders of technology, the 15 musicians involved were able to record their parts in the comfort of their own homes,” Ruiz said.
The multi-faceted artist even has a distribution company, JVR Music Works, Inc., to make sure the album reaches outlets, listeners and potentially buyers.
Family members were involved as well, including his sister, vocalist Christina Valerie Stigle.
“What brings me the most joy is that my father (Valentin 'Tito' Ruiz), who is a registered nurse in Tampa, served as one of the producers for the album.”An accomplished percussionist and bassist in his own right, his father is the one who suggested he take up the flute.
“It is a dream come true for him and for me to achieve such an accomplishment that we have worked so hard for over the years. He, along with my flute professor, Dr. (Associate Professor Kim) McCormick, has been my main mentor since I was eight years old. Both of them continually encouraged me through the obstacles I had to overcome.”
The Latin Recording Academy®, part of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences®, is in charge of the Latin GRAMMY Awards, and “recognizes recordings released anywhere in the world with the only condition being that they were recorded in Spanish or Portuguese.” Members of the Latin Recording Academy® – artists, musicians, technicians and other recording professionals – come from more than 30 countries, hence, literally thousands of entries are submitted. After reviewing sessions to determine eligibility and categorize the genres, first-round ballots determine nominees and second-round ballots determine winners. Surviving this process is no small achievement.
Ruiz observed that among the submissions are productions lead by some of the most respected performers, composers, engineers and producers, including past GRAMMY winners.
“What an honor and humbling feeling it is to be considered among the elite musicians of our society.”
A Global Outlook
He went on to explain, “Musically speaking, the album takes listeners through a sonic journey of the music of 20 countries. Genres include Spanish flamenco, Argentinian Tango, Cuban son and timba, Nigerian drumming, Brazilian samba, Puerto Rican plena, U.S. electronic music, funk, hip hop and blues, Middle Eastern folkloric music, and more.”
The far-ranging sounds reflect some of the countries he has visited as well as his Puerto Rican roots, and some of his research interests.
“I wanted to communicate a message of unity in the midst of diversity through the synchrony of sub-genres that are meshed within each song and collaboration with musicians from different cultural backgrounds,” Ruiz said.
He also sought to provide “the processes entailed in becoming a multi-faceted performing artist and to create doors of opportunities for my colleagues and students.”
The album displays “compositional, improvisational, and performance mastery of four important fields that are dear to my heart, namely Latin music, jazz music, popular music and classical music and all the variations within each category,” Ruiz said.
Already thanking those who helped him get this far, Ruiz points to USF faculty members that “indirectly helped make this album a success: Dr. McCormick, who taught me the flute, ensemble playing, and performance techniques, Valerie Gillespie, my saxophone instructor who gave me the tools to become a skilled improviser, Dr. (Professor) C. Victor Fung, my major professor whose passion for international perspectives in music education served as inspiration for my pursuit of this production, and Dr.(Associate Professor) William Hayden, my advisor who provided invaluable wisdom for my artistic endeavors.
“The success of this production would not have been realized if it weren't for the diligence, dedication, passion, reliability, sacrifice, and love that each musician exuded,” he said.
Prepared for a Bright Future
With a bachelor’s degree in music studies, Ruiz went on to earn a master’s degree in instrumental performance from the University of Miami. He returned to USF to work on his doctorate in music education.
Without any prompting, Ruiz is quick to point out, “I love USF. I will never forget when I performed at a private party and President Genshaft said, ‘Whatever you do, you better graduate,’ and I did. She has always been a great supporter of my artistry.”
Ruiz has attracted attention since he was a senior at USF where he earned his undergraduate degree after selecting USF over scholarships to Berklee School of Music and Julliard. His expectation was that he “could gain a broader education and still eat mama’s yummy cooking.”
Representing USF with “Bulls Pride,” Ruiz said he hopes to become a higher education faculty member where he can “cultivate music majors in becoming entrepreneurial, multi-facetted performing artists who graduate with higher marketability in the music industry,” he said. Another goal is to “continue performing in both small and great venues and use these platforms to communicate the value of having hope, tolerance, unity, passion, and love...especially in a time when our society needs it.”
Ruiz also plans to continue doing research in the areas of performance enhancement and students’ artistic development.
“The reality is that I am truly humbled and grateful for this tremendous honor. I hope that this album can further advance my endeavors.”
Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563