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Ruben Rodriguez

There are many ways to measure the greatness of a musician. You can talk dollars or awards or recordings or even high-profile gigs. But for the best of the best, put your money on the ones that other musicians talk about. Among Latin bass players, that's Ruben Rodriguez.

His first big gig was with Johnny Colon in 1979. Since then he's worked with Tito Rojas, Luis Ramirez, Ray de la Paz, Willie Colon, Dave Valentin, Charlie and Eddie Palmieri, Hilton Ruiz, Johnny Pacheco, Jose Fajardo, The Fania All Stars, and the late great Machito to name just a few. In the mainstream jazz field there's people like Grover Washington Jr. and Roberta Flack. And this is still a young man.

He grew up mostly in East Harlem during the 60's and 70's. But from 1969 to 1974 he lived in Puerto Rico. It's where he got his first musical training. An uncle in the states sent over a trumpet, and Ruben took lessons from an old Puerto Rican teacher. His father was also a musician who played classical guitar, and Ruben learned something about that instrument as well. It wasn't until 1977 though, that he picked up the bass, in junior high.

“Actually it picked me. Nobody in the class would play the darn thing. It was a big, wooden upright, and from September of 77 to January of 78 I dealt with that thing. Then the school got an electric bass and I just switched.”

Since then he's been mostly self-taught but spent some time under the tutelage of the esteemed bassist Victor Venegas.

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