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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
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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I love Tito Puente ♥♡♥♡♥♡ ~.*
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Every time I hear Tito's Oye como va...it takes me back to the Palladium. The acoustics... w h e n I close my eyes... damn, and am again, man. I'm there! It's so damned cool. I'm 72, and it's like I'm back in the day. Gracias y'all with all me heart, man.
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Great music, great smile & attitude. One hell of a band leader. He is SO missed!
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When i was in Jr.high I learned who tito was i would cut out of school ...go to house partys and dance salsa all day long .....and it was titos music that i fell in with ..... Salsa with TITO!!!!!!
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Tito was the best!!!!!!!! !
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Awesome Musician!
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Mmmmcmmmmmmm m c m m
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Mm mmmm
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Musica para lo salsero
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Did not know Tito did this tune first. Spines great and I mean really great. My props to Santana for a re-do and keeping it real.
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Tito Puente u will always be the man, RIP
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Mambo King is giving the frenetic yet controlled energy I need. It's fantastic
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Tito fue uno de los pioneros , junto con los cubanos en la salsa de Nueva York live TITO
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sergiopina78
Good music!
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frnsaenz
TITO!! Truly a legend!!
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Tito Puente....tr u l y one of the best!
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netta5187
The best of the best!
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U will always be the man Tito Puente, RIP papi
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The king of timbales, the one n only, epa
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Let's ROCK DIS JOINT!!!!! :-D
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Need to hear the fluid '2' beat
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Damn an am again! This sure takes me back to the ole P &. Tito creator
of Latin Jazz.. Mucho Thanks!


















t
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Latin jazz, love it !!!!
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The best and most prolific latin artist ever lived, inspiration of millions!
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El rey de timbales, RIP Tito Puente
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TP is TB with the GM
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Tito puente il re del Timbal
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TITO PUENTE !!!!!!BRAVO !!!!!
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Era un maestro del timbal inigualable.
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Tito Puente !!!!!!>>Cayu c o hey this is my jam \(*.*)/love this man and his beautiful music my #1 off top ♥♡♥♡♥♡♥♡♥♡♥♡
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Bravo
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El rey del timbal..
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Ran kan kan one of titos' swinginges tunes ever
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dsanch11
Love his music
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Epa
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El rey de los timbales, RIP Tito Puente u will always be a credit to the race, mi gente
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The Man!
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El Maestro
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Mi gente ♡
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jamieb12871
iVIVA! Tito Puente... iVIVA! Puerto Rico
iVIVA! LATIN JAZZ... iVIVA! LATINAS
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obp6614cr
W Tito Puente what is the king of all kings away the totals ray I personally saw him and heard it many times. He was the best
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Tito puente ♡
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Wepaaaaaaaa
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odacremj1
Simply rythm & movement. My hands on her hips, my eyes on her smile & cha, cha, cha. Simple joy, lots of laughter & fun.
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My brother Johnny and I shared a moment of silence upon hearing of his passing!!!!! ! ! 1 . . . . . O n e of a kind.......w e may never see his likes again... we still morn him...
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randhgonzale z
TITO PLAYED GREAT CUBAN MUSIC .THANKS
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Wepaaaaaaaa
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Raised listening 2 this Álbum
Great Memories
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Hero of the greatest don't imbalance and congrats
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NOBODY could do this like TITO!!!!! :-D
(We miss u, Senor Puente...... . : - ) :-) :'(:-) :-) )
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