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Tito Puente: Bueno pa Gozar!

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Tito Puente is one of the most important, if not the most important, representatives of Latin jazz all around the world. Ernesto Antonio Puente Jr., real name of Tito Puente, was born in New York in 1923. Due to his accurate and rhythmic performances, he has been given three different “kingdoms.” He is not only “The Mambo King” or “The King of Latin Music”, but also, and mainly, “El Rey de los Timbales” (The King of Timbales).

His ability with instruments such as saxophone, claves, bongos, piano and congas as well as the way in which he kept his music fresh are two of the main reasons that make possible that Tito Puente be admired and followed by many people from different music backgrounds or ethnic groups. Even though he is mainly recognized by his performance in jazz and mambo, his main contribution was to bring some Caribbean and Afro-Cuban sounds such as son, guaguanco, cha-cha-cha, merengue and mambo to the mainstream radio.

At the beginning of his career, he formed a band composed of nine musicians and called Picadilly Boys in 1947. With the singles “Picadillo”, “Abaniquito”, “Ran Kan” and “El Yoyo”, Tito gained Anglo and Hispanic followers who named him The King of Latin Music and The Mambo King. Tito kept recording other albums while experimenting in a fusion of jazz and Latin music so that he could play jazz, as he wanted, but without loosing the authenticity of Latin music. However, this was not his only incursion in other genres.

The 50’s was without a doubt the decade of Tito. However, his popularity increased as a result of Santana’s covers of the hits “Oye Como Va” and “Los Rumberos” during 1970-1971 and his participation in some television shows such as Los Simpsons and The Cosby Show during the 80’s. These events brought the eyes of worldwide audiences even of different music genres to Tito Puente. Some of the recognitions he received were eight Grammy nominations and four Grammy awards. In 2000, he died in Puerto Rico due to a heart attack.

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