Born: September 8 Primary Instrument: Keyboard
Since graduating from the University of North Texas, Mr. Cruz has been active with recording, producing, arranging and performing with various jazz, rock, world, R&B and classical music artists all over the world. His current jazz and improvisational musical exploits include recording and touring worldwide with the Alex Blake Quartet. His production and arranging work has been recognized and acclaimed by Billboard, Downbeat, Vibe and Rolling Stone magazines. His various composition works includes a Meet The Composer grant for the improvisational score to Tetsuo, The Iron Man which was performed at the Knitting Factory in New York. He also composed the music for the opening and closing ceremonies of the millennium celebration in Times Square, New York City. Mr Cruz's recent forays into film and television music has his work featured domestically and internationally on ESPN, NBC, CBS, Bravo, MTV and HBO television. He composed original music for the television documentaries Creating Counterparts which was selected as the best documentary at the 2003 Kansas City Film Festival, Flag Wars for PBS television and the film Palo Alto. (2007) Recent CD production and arranging work include Pete Muller's More Than This (2004), Carole Alexis Osmosis (2005), Theresa Sareo's Alive Again (2006) and Joshua Louis' self-titled EP, (2008) and his second release My Special Friend (2009) and the soundtrack to the alt-cabaret production The Love Show. (2011)
Source: All Music Guide
Trombonist Fowlkes & keyboardist/co-producer Ted Cruz have a pretty good concept on how to juice up modern mainstream and contemporary jazz modes. Toss in a little Fender Rhodes piano, some hot house horns, an occasional funky twist or hard swinging beats and you have Catfish Corner. Fowlkes and Cruz are joined by the quite substantial contributions of alto saxophonist Sam Furnace, trumpeter Russ Johnson, bassist Carlos Henderson and drummer J.T. Lewis. Their collective sounds cross many improvisational demarcations, but is rooted in the post-bop originality of the '50s. The material, 7 of 9 pieces written by Fowlkes, each have a flavor of their own. The introductory Treasure Chest cooks nicely in 6/8, replete with wonderful interplay from the front liners, Furnace's smouldering alto and Cruz on electric Rhodes defining the sound and centering their focus. What Was...Is, a statement unto itself, is a straight swinger with organ fed urgency, a call-and-response clarion head, and Furnace in a Dolphy-esque mood. Sacred Monster turns a corner in a loping waltz mode with Cruz's Rhodes again setting the pace. Going into Mwandishi cum Horace Silver territory, Blue Teardrops Falling is nearly 11 minutes of undiluted workout, with funky blues reserve and wah-wah keyboards especially on Cruz's innovative solo. Fowlkes, a sweet and satisfying trombonist with no excess or aftertaste, takes the lead on three selections, two of them ballads; Ashe (he is a sports fan so this must be for the late great tennis pro Arthur Ashe,) a beautifully patient anticipatory refrain, and the standard When I Fall In Love, with stacked themes of longing and waiting. The trombonist also takes charge on a marvelous interpretation of fellow trombonist Grachan Moncur III's classic hard bop- to-latin themed flag waver The Coaster, his fellow bandmembers urging him on with background horn charts that punctuate his lean, mean melody lines. Most atypical, but still quite good, is a two note/same note repeated phrase on Walker Snead that sets up electric rock guitar of guest Duncan Cleary, and the monotone poetic jazz legacy-where do we go from here? rap of Sheila Prevost on the funky title track. Much very good bordering on great jazz to be heard here, and we suspect just a scraping of the surface for what Folwkes and his friends have in store in the not too distant future. Recommended with no reservation. ~ Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide
The four musicians in Juke are each outstanding instrumentalists and composers in their own right. Collectively, they bring an intriguing array of influences and a formidable wealth of chops to the table and put a fresh spin on the contemporary electric jazz ensemble. While their individual bodies of work span every conceivable genre and milieu (club gigs, tours, studio work, film scoring, etc.), there can be no arguing that at heart, these are jazz men, players who improvise with personal voices, stretching and pushing boundaries, be they rhythmic, harmonic, textural, or what- have-you. “THE SKY ON MARS” kicks things off in a modal, 6/8 bag, allowi ng plenty of space for inspired solos by keyboardist Ted Cruz and guitarist Aurelien Budynek. “GREEN DUST,” spotlighting work on the seldom-heard fretless guitar and doing nothing to dispel the futuristic, sci-fi funk vibe saturating the p roceedings. Ted once again fires off an exciting solo on the Fender Rhodes as well.
The final tune, “JUKE,” lends its name to the band and reveals the compelling compositional talent of keyboardist Cruz. The song is emblematic of the band’s approach in general, a study in contrasts which here include an edgy, rhythmic unison line, a warmer ensemble passage and a sequence of “tutti” hits that launch more burning solos from Aurelien and Ted.
While I listened to the men of Juke do their thing I couldn’t help but think of the future. Yes, there are futuristic themes here, reflected by some of the song titles, and there are certainly futuristic sounds coming from the instruments of each of the players. But it’s the players themselves who represent the future for me, a new breed of musician who is uncompromising in his integrity and skill, who is more open to a wider swath of influences then ever before, and who knows how to integrate that incoming data into his own expression. These are men who speak with their own voices and listen with enormous ears to the universe of sound we all live in. Together, they push the margins of that universe a little bit further every time they play.
* * * --Toby Wine, CHERRY LANE MUSIC PUB.
New York, NY
Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
$75 an hour.