Saturday, 20 April 2013

El Rey

El Rey - the King of Latin Music, Tito Puente would have been 90 years old today.

Surprisingly, given his eternal association with the music of Latin America, Señor Puente was not born in Cuba, nor Puerto Rico, but was raised in the El Barrio area of East Harlem in Manhattan. He was brought up with not only the traditional Latin sounds of his family and neighbourhood, but also the emergent big band swing of Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey. Famously, his mother, frustrated by the young Tito's aversion to learning piano and his preference for banging out rhythms on pots and pans around the house, eventually sent him to learn drums instead - and a legend was born.

In his career of more than 50 years, he was recognised as one of the greatest proponents of the fusion between jazz and swing with mambo, salsa and ton, winning five Grammys. Over the decades his collaborators included such diverse legends as bandleader Machito, George Shearing, Woody Herman, La Lupe, Lionel Hampton, Celia Cruz, Cal Tjader, La India, Hector Lavoe, Della Reese and Sheila E. He had a direct influence on later successful Latin artists such as Santana, Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin, and among his many accolades he received the National Medal of Arts and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Here are just two examples of his genius:

Oye Como Va

Tito Puente and Armand Assante in the movie Mambo Kings

It seems like only yesterday that I posted a tribute to the great man on the occasion of his 85th anniversary.

A great loss to music.

Ernesto Antonio "Tito" Puente (20th April 1923 – 1st June 2000)

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