Puente, Tito (1923–2000)

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Puente, Tito (1923–2000)

Ernest Anthony "Tito" Puente was one of the most important bandleaders, arrangers, percussionists, and recording artists (he made more than a hundred albums) in Latin dance music of the twentieth century. Puente was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. At an early age he studied ballroom dancing as well as piano and percussion. His earliest professional engagements in Latin popular music date from 1939 to 1942, when he was a member of the Noro Morales and Machito orchestras. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Puente returned to New York and eventually established his first group, the Picadilly Boys, in 1949. Soon after he became one of the three most important and popular mambo bandleaders in New York. Representative recordings from this period include "Ran Kan Kan" (1949) and "Mambo Diablo" (c. 1951) and the albums Cuban Carnival (1956) and Dance Mania (1957). His career in the following decades is marked by his influential recording "Oye Como Va" (1962), which was later made famous by Carlos Santana; his first Grammy Award, for Homenaje a Beny (1978); and his numerous Latin jazz recordings, which date from the early 1980s until his death in 2000. From the beginning of his career as a bandleader and recording artist, Puente incorporated arranging techniques, including voicings and chord progressions from the jazz big band repertoire, while remaining rooted in the musical aesthetics of Cuban music. Such fusions continue to shape the musical language of Latin jazz, which, as musicians and arrangers working in the genre agree, Puente helped to initiate.

See alsoMachito; Mambo; Music: Popular Music and Dance; Samba; Santana, Carlos.


Loza, Steven. Tito Puente and the Making of Latin Music. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

                                      David F. Garcia