The best and more emblematic Tito Puente’s records
Ernesto Antonio Puente, better known as Tito Puente, El Rey del Timbal, was a recognized percussionist in the music industry. He was born in Harlem, New York on April 20, 1923.
Those who knew him as a child considered him very active. He was always looking for objects to generate sounds and make noise. The New Yorker, of Puerto Rican parents, began his music studies too young. At an early age he learned to play percussion and piano.
He was heavily influenced by jazz artists and Gene Krupa, considered the most influential drummer of the 20th century. Puente participated in various local bands and was part of the Machito group; musician and singer of Cuban origin who contributed to the creation of Afro-Cuban jazz.
Their first steps
At the age of fifteen he made his debut in a Miami orchestra. He amazes everyone with his ability for Latin perc battledussions.
For seven years he studied piano and drums. He then attended the Juilliard School, a conservatory of the arts located in New York. His musical training was very solid, which led him to become a great figure of the genre.
It was part of the development of rhythms and fusions that led to the success of salsa. However, he wasn’t a big fan of that term. Although he was known as a “salsa ambassador”, when asked about it, he responded in a humorous way:
“Salsa is what I put in spaghetti. What I play is Cuban music”, he repeated over and over again, extolling the roots of Afro-Caribbean music.
In the 1940s, he decided to form his own band, the Picadilly Boys, specializing in Latin jazz. They received the support of Tico Records to make their first musical recording. His career was just beginning. At the end of the 50s, “Dance Manía”, one of the artist’s most popular albums, was released.
Puente walked among the mambo, bossa nova and Afro-Cuban jazz. In the 60s, he ventured into salsa, without leaving behind other rhythms that characterized him.
The timbalero did not hesitate to support talented young people, Sophy from Puerto Rico recorded his first productions under the recommendations of Puente. Puente was in charge of the production, arrangements and instruments. It was a pleasure for her to receive the affection that he gave her. He treated her like a daughter and learned a lot from him; Celia Cruz was another of the artists who had the honor of working with “El Maestro”.
The sound of their timpani was known worldwide. He recorded more than a hundred albums, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1969, as well as the key to New York City and different nominations: Grammy Award for artistic career, Grammy Hall of Fame Award, Latin Grammy Award for Best Salsa Album, Grammy Award for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album, Latin Grammy Award for Best Traditional Tropical Album, Grammy Award for Best Salsa Album and Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording.
Throughout his career, he had the opportunity to work with several record labels including: Charly Records, BMG, RCA Victor, Fania Records, Sony Discos and Concord Picante.
Most recognized albums:
Dance Mania, 1978.
Dance Manía, 1958 was the artist’s first album. Considered the most famous percussionist. The study work, entered in 2002, in the National Recording Registry; list of recordings that are considered important and part of the culture and history of the United States. It is also found in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, a music reference book founded in 2005.
The history of Latin music in the United States took a cultural turn after the appearance of Dance Manía. It was recorded under the voice of the Puerto Rican Santos Colón, in Spanish. They were generally performed in the native language of the United States or only as instrumental music.
Tito Puente wanted to break down barriers and have the American public listen to the pieces in Spanish. The album is positioned as the most famous Latin album of all time, surpassing successful artists of the time like Héctor Lavoe and Celia Cruz.
Homenaje a Beny, 1978.
Tito Puente made history with this album, by obtaining his first Latin Grammy. It was the winning album for Best Latin Music Album. With the help of his orchestra, he created an unprecedented album, full of flavor; an album that highlighted Cuban origins and fusions. A heartfelt tribute to the remembered Benny Moré, Cuban singer and musician who died in 1963. “Homenaje a Beny” featured 17 pieces of music.
Cuba y Puerto Rico son…, 1966.
The career of the remembered Cuban singer Celia Cruz was on the rise. In 1966, Tito Puente decided to contact her to work together. They established a kind of association that was maintained through the years. In addition, they became very close friends, a bond that went beyond the musical realm.
Cruz appreciated him and was saddened after his death. In her autobiography “Celia, mi vida” she recalled the day she received the terrible news. She considered him an authority on Cuban music and admired his career.“Tito was always in charge of the arrangements, and he liked to work at dawn. We would go out to dinner, and when we returned, Tito would stay until four in the morning composing arrangements for what we were going to record the next day.
Although we were not very lucky with our recordings, Tito and I did very well with the tours. Together we travel to many countries. It was during those trips that we developed that great friendship that we had, ”said La Guarachera del Mundo.
In addition to “Cuba y Puerto Rico Son”, they recorded five more albums: Quimbo Quimbumbia (1969), Etc., Etc., Etc. (1970), Alma con alma (1971), En España (1971) and Algo especial para memoria (1972).
Timbalero Tropical (1998)
One of the last works of the artist and that featured fifteen songs. He worked hand in hand with the RCA label. The album stood out with works such as: El Timbal, Mi Guaguancó, Lo Dicen Todo, Mambo Macoco, Mambo and Preparen Candela. Topics that were very popular at the time and that today continue to sound at family gatherings. They are classic salseros that do not go out of style.
“Oye como va” was a song written by Puente in 1963. However, it was rock guitarist Carlos Santana who popularized it. The song went international and was positioned on the Billboard Hot 100, a list that ranks the best-selling hits in the United States. However, he was not the only one to cover it: Celia Cruz, rapper Gerardo Mejía, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Cuba Sextette and Cheo Feliciano. When he presented the theme on stage he affectionately presented Santana as its author.
This 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the physical disappearance of the great: Tito Puente. He passed away on May 31, 2000. His Caribbean flavor, his big smile and his white hair left a great void in the entertainment world. Puente left a great legacy. He contributed to the expansion of Latin music in the United States and served as a composer, percussionist, conductor, and performer.
His exaggerated grimaces, his style, energy, and his skill with the instrument earned him worldwide recognition. In addition to positioning him as an admirable figure among colleagues and young people who want to follow in his footsteps. Simply unforgettable!