Tito Puente was the real-life Mambo King when Latin jazzy dance rhythms and the three-and-two pulse of Afro-Cuban music first took over New York. It was the 1950s when Americans went cha-cha-cha crazy, preferably in spiky heels and shiny ducks-ass haircuts, when the Palladium dance hall at 53d Street and Broadway in Manhattan went all-mambo and the young timbale drummer Tito Puente actually had to fight it out for the royal crown against bandleader Perez Prado and his hit-parade singles like “It’s Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom Time.”
Fifty years later, and after his death last May at 77, Tito Puente is remembered not just for his own many hits but for his confident, virtually classical personification of a musical movement called salsa now and still getting stronger: amazingly energetic music that works for dancers and jazz improvisers, pop singers and record companies, too. The life and legacy of Tito Puente are this hour on The Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Dave Valentin, jazz flutist and former music director for “The Golden Latin Jazz All Stars,” a former group of Tito Puente’s.jazz flutist and former music director for “The Golden Latin Jazz All Stars,” a former group of Tito Puente’s. Jim Payne, percussionist and co-author of “Tito Puente’s Drumming with the Mambo King.”