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Tito Puente

By virtue of his warm, flamboyant stage manner, longevity, constant touring, and appearances in the mass media, Tito Puente is probably the most beloved symbol of Latin jazz. But more than that, Puente managed to keep his music remarkably fresh over the decades; as a timbales virtuoso, he combined mastery over every rhythmic nuance with old-fashioned showmanship -- watching his eyes bug out when taking a dynamic solo was one of the great treats for Latin jazz fans. A trained musician, he was also a fine, lyrical vibraphonist, a gifted arranger, and played piano, congas, bongos, and saxophone. His appeal continues to cut across all ages and ethnic groups, helped no doubt by Santana's best-selling cover versions of "Oye Como Va" and "Para Los Rumberos" in 1970-1971, and cameo appearances on The Cosby Show in the 1980s and the film The Mambo Kings in 1992. His brand of classic salsa is generally free of dark undercurrents, radiating a joyous, compulsively danceable party atmosphere.

Rooted in Spanish Harlem, of Puerto Rican descent, Puente originally intended to become a dancer but those ambitions were scotched by a torn ankle tendon suffered in an accident. At age 13, he began working in Ramon Olivero's big band as a drummer, and later he studied composing, orchestration, and piano at Juilliard and the the New York School of Music. More importantly, he played with and absorbed the influence of Machito, who was successfully fusing Latin rhythms with progressive jazz. Forming the nine-piece Piccadilly Boys in 1947 and then expanding it to a full orchestra two years later, Puente recorded for Seeco, Tico, and eventually RCA Victor, helping to fuel the mambo craze that gave him the unofficial -- and ultimately lifelong -- title "King of the Mambo," or just "El Rey." Puente also helped popularize the cha-cha during the 1950s, and he was the only non-Cuban who was invited to a government-sponsored "50 Years of Cuban Music" celebration in Cuba in 1952.

Among the major-league congueros who played with the Puente band in the '50s were Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Johnny Pacheco, and Ray Barretto, which resulted in some explosive percussion shootouts. Not one to paint himself into a tight Latin music corner, Puente's range extended to big-band jazz (Puente Goes Jazz), and in the '60s, bossa nova tunes, Broadway hits, boogaloos, and pop music, although in later years he tended to stick with older Latin jazz styles that became popularly known as salsa. In 1982, he started reeling off a string of several Latin jazz albums with octets or big bands for Concord Picante that gave him greater exposure and respect in the jazz world than he ever had.

An indefatigable visitor to the recording studios, Puente recorded his 100th album, The Mambo King, in 1991 amid much ceremony and affection (an all-star Latin music concert at Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheatre in March 1992 commemorated the milestone), and he kept adding more titles to the tally throughout the '90s. He also appeared as a guest on innumerable albums over the years, and such jazz stars as Phil Woods, George Shearing, James Moody, Dave Valentin, and Terry Gibbs played on Puente's own later albums. Just months after accepting his fifth Grammy award, he died on June 1, 2000. Several months later, Puente was recognized at the first annual Latin Grammy Awards, winning for Best Traditional Tropical Perfomance for Mambo Birdland. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Saw him in a small venue in west village NYC with Eddie Palmarri in the late 80s. Brilliant show. I was young in a relative way and ended up with a lovely Latin woman who played me the mambo all night long. That too was a brilliant show.
Great latin music brings back memories of my dancing days
nancyweissbe i n
Tito Puente the best in the conga world. No replacement❤
eqrecov.ew
The best timbalero ever Tito Puente best best percussionis t in the Latin world
Tito has to be the Godfather of Afro Cuban Jazz
...........W O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O W . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nothing more need be tapped...... . . . . . . . = - O :-D =-O :-D =-O
Tito puente will never be forgotten
El Rey ( the king de timbales) RIP
tito quedaste marcado por siempre en mi mente nunca te olvidare .roberto.... . . .
jeanclaudyga b 5
I miss You, Tito Puente, Mario Rivera and all the Latin Legends.
Bravo, El Rey, RIP Tito Puente :-*
Puente Had the best musical directors and musicians like Johnny Rodriguez ,Bobby Rodriguez , Sonny Bravo,Jorge Dalto,Mario Rivera,Jose Madera ,Dave Valentin,Jim m y and Mitch on the reeds and many many more all the players made Puentes shinning star never die. Thanks to you all. Check out The Latin Jazz Giants!
I like Tito Puente's music,
The master of Latin jazz
nellyrivera0 9
No, no, no, latin jazz is not salsa!! Puente was called rumbero, timbalero, latin jazz artista, but never salsero...He did not much like that aspect of latin music, it's not what he played
vmsrodriguez
I was able to see tito puente play live,in many concerts.he was a true master on the timbales..!
Que viva PR, wepaaaaaa!!! ! !
LOVE! LOVE! LOVE IT!
I never really knew Tito but man!!! He made some great music.
Saw him on several occasions at the Hollywood Palidum
De la Isla del Encanto, mi tierra Borinquen , the. World. Best
Yes! A star of Latin Jazz.
Fue de los percusionist a nato nacio con ese don desde la capital del mundo Puerto Rico les saluda masp139
nancyweissbe i n
To the Mambo King, Tito Puente!
I saw him several times in concert and danced in the night clubs! He's the best!
Tienes muchos pandorables q reconocen tu musica, Tito ....,
Lucky enough to have seen him twice. He was great, hopefully more people will listen to his many, many sounds and continue love for him. silverkoff
mtchllsemaj
The absolute best!!!
The best of Tito Puente, RIP mambo king :-)
new to Tito but will be a keeper!
TITO Was My Puerto Rican Star In Heaven, RIP>
A huge part of this ol' white guy's soul. His passion gave life to me and so many others. El Rey is with us forever, God bless him.
Rory
josecot
Tito Puente - Master Timbalero - was named the best Latin musician of last century. His record Dance Mania was named one of the best 25 Latin records of that century. After 50 years as a gifted musician, composer, arranger and master timbalero, he left a legacy of 129 records and lots of memories to dancers around the world.
¡Viva Puente!
J.Cot
More Tito! He exudes enthusiasm for the Latin genre and percussion!
a graet musician viva tito
bigblue91
Nice!!!
mbauerle2
Someday Tito Puente's gonna be dead, and you're gonna say, Oh, I've been listening to him for years, and I think he's fabulous. - John Winger aka Bill Murray, Stripes 1981
My preffered music of the 40's to 60's
How could you not have a BIO on Tito Puentes, one of the greatest innovative artist of our time. Celia Cruz would be nothing without him. Please acknowledge, for goodness sakes, watch the Public TV Channel 11 documentary on the man. Very dissappointi n g , makes me wonder how knowledgable you guys really are about true music.
brod537
Clicked BIO and found nothing, other than elected Discography and comments. Tito Puente was one of the greats in Latin Jazz/Mambo/S a l s a music. Please acknowledge and recognize him as he should.
Lo Mejor del folklore Afro Latino Caribeno American Tito puso a bailar hast a lost chino
mhutchins7
WRONG BIO - REPLACE WITH TITO PUENTE, NOT CELIA CRUZ
Tito Puente King Timbalero BADASS beautiful
BEAUTIFUL
R.I.P Tito Puente; El Rey de los Timbales. The King of Latin Music! You are truly missed! XO
Tito was half Cuban half rican. Like all salsa lovers r.
yemaya1936
The greatest.... back in the late 50's and early 60's a group of us would hit the Palladium in NY to listen and dance to Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. Machito's sister would sing No and the audience would go crazy. Birdland was just a few doors down across from the Ed Sullivan Theatre. AAh...those were the days.
genesilvers_ 1
Tito made me love Afro-Cuban music,even if he of Puerto Rician desent.

I used to go to the El San Juan Hotel to listen Celia Cruz and Tito P, Salsa best ever
This bio is not about Tito Puente.
Is about Celia Cruz.
Need to change this Pandora.
He's genial!!!!!
I "cut my Salsa baby teeth" on Tito...so to speak.
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