On March 5, 2022, the heirs to the mambo will reunite once again, this time the concert entitled Palladium in the New Millennium will grace the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the heart of New York’s Bronx.
This concert coincides with the coming of age celebration of the establishment of The Big Three Palladium Orchestra. The initial idea of bringing together the three great Palladium orchestras in this innovative concept came to Mario Grillo, better known in the music world as Machito, Jr. approximately twenty-one years ago.
His counterpart, Tito Rodriguez, Jr. told me about it and, thanks to his complicity, I had a pleasant conversation during which Machito, Jr. shared with me a myriad of details. Having previously collected and shared the conversations I had with Tito, Jr. and later with Machito, Jr. I must now share the point of view of the youngest of the three mambo heirs -Tito Puente, Jr.- about this trilogy, among other things. During the beginnings of this historic reunion, Tito Puente, Jr. was barely 30 years old.
As with me, the two oldest members of the trilogy have been very supportive of Tito Puente, Jr. During an exclusive interview granted for this special assignment, Tito Puente, Jr. expressed his deep appreciation for having been so lovingly guided by Tito Rodriguez, Jr. and Machito, Jr. to the recording of what has become the legacy of the Palladium big three: The Big Three Palladium Orchestra live at the Blue Note (2004).
The youngest of the three heirs of the mambo is doubly celebrating, as he has just released his sixth production, entitled The King and I. It contains nine tracks, as you can hear on the album. It contains nine tracks, as detailed below: Picadillo, featuring Humberto Ramírez on trumpet; Salsa na ma, featuring José Alberto “El Canario” on vocals; Pa los rumberos, with a masterful performance by Domingo Quiñones; Oye como va, with a performance by “Mulato Rumbero”, Michael Stuart; Para la niña y pa la señora, with none other than Miguel Angel Barcasnegras, better known as “Meñique” (EPD) on vocals; Hong Kong mambo, instrumental theme that highlights the Puente dynasty, with Ronnie Puente on xylophone; El bribón del aguacero, with Yolanda Duke on vocals; 20 años and El Rey del Timbal. Let’s be clear that this album is not the big band arrangement to which the eternal King of the Timbal has accustomed us. It is, however, the best tribute that the youngest of the three heirs of the Palladium pays to his father, keeping the legacy alive and kicking.
As you can see, each of the “Palladium’s Big Three” inherited a timbalero son. Coincidentally, Machito, Jr., Tito Rodríguez, Jr. and Tito Puente, Jr. grew up surrounded by music. Their family environments, respectively, supported them. Indeed, today, all three are musicians. These three bandleaders have made it their mission to keep the Palladium legacy alive and well. Although the mambo heirs have transcended the label of being the sons of the mambo owners, they do not forget that the Patriarchs are still a topic of conversation in musical circles around the world.
As the past is the past and the future is uncertain, here we are already waiting in despair. For this new reunion, first-class musicians have been secured, backing up the three heirs of the mambo. The musical constellation that will be part of this historic night is formed by: Carmen Laboy on baritone saxophone and musical direction, Jorge Castro on tenor saxophone, Mark Friedman and Al Acosta on alto saxophones; Larry Moses, Seneca Black, Mike Mossman, and John Carlson on trumpets; Gilberto Colón, Jr. on piano, Jerry Madera on bass, John “Dandy” Rodríguez on bongo and Eddie Montalvo on tumbadoras. On the vocal front, Sammy Gonzalez, Jr. leads with Luisito Rosario and Jeremy Montalvo on backing vocals.