Otmaro Ruiz

About Otmaro Ruiz

Venezuelan pianist Otmaro Ruíz was born in Caracas in 1964, and took up both classical guitar and piano at age eight. He studied biology in college, but kept playing keyboards on the side, landing his first professional gig in a pop band in 1980. Three years later, he dropped out of school to focus exclusively on music, and started playing with a variety of jazz and pop artists. In 1986, he joined an advertising production company, where he wrote, arranged, recorded, and/or produced jingles for TV and radio on a daily basis for the next three years. In the meantime, he also played, arranged, and served as musical director behind numerous Venezuelan artists. In 1989, he moved to Los Angeles, where he completed his master's degree at the California Institute of the Arts. In the meantime, he began playing with percussionist Alex Acuña, appearing on two albums during the early '90s. That association led to countless session gigs and sideman performances over the next decade, both local and otherwise; a versatile player, he was able to work in straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz, salsa, fusion, and pop/rock contexts. His highest-profile engagement was a mid-'90s jaunt with Arturo Sandoval, which was followed in 1996 by a world tour supporting Gino Vannelli; he also supported rock musicians like Jon Anderson (lead singer of Yes) and Robbie Robertson. In the meantime, Ruíz also recorded several albums for Japanese labels; 1991's Otmaro Ruiz Plays Ryuichi Sakamoto was never issued in America, but 1993's Distant Friends was released on the Moo label three years later. Its follow-up, Nothing to Hide, was recorded in 1996 and released in the U.S. in 1998, again by Moo. Ruíz worked with Herb Alpert and John McLaughlin in the late '90s, and as the new millennium dawned, he embarked on a tour of duty with singer Dianne Reeves. ~ Steve Huey

Carcas, Venezuela
June 27, 1964
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