Tito Puente: 'El Rey: Live 1984'

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The cover of  El Rey: Live 1984

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A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Something tells me that we're not in Kansas anymore, or Michigan or Georgia for that matter. Murray Horwitz, where are we, and why are we putting this into the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library?

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Well A.B., we're in the world of Latin Jazz, in the world of Tito Puente. The name of the CD is El Rey because he still reins in this world of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, even after his death as "El Rey de Timbales", the king of those tuned, punchy, exciting drums.


HORWITZ: This CD is a good introduction to Tito Puente's music for a number of reasons. First it was recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco in 1984. In fact, our producer Felix Contreras was there, and it captures the fire and excitement of the band in front of an enthusiastic crowd. And it's a great band. It includes the congo drummer Francisco Aguabella, the bassist Bobby Rodriguez, and the legendary flutist and saxophonist Mario Rivera. And Tito Puente plays vibes as well as timbales. There are standards like "Autumn Leaves." There are John Coltrane tunes, and Tito Puente's own famous compositions, "Ran Kan Kan" and "Oye Como Va."


HORWITZ: This is highly organized music. The rhythms are so varied and so dense. You know, those of us not brought up on Latin Jazz might be prejudiced and think the rhythms would limit the musicians, but of course it's just the opposite. Tito Puente's arrangements allow him and soloists like Mario Rivera to thrive. They make melodies and develop ideas thoroughly plunged into this world of rhythm, and it's terribly exciting and beautiful.


A.B. SPELLMAN: Musical moments like that are the reason that we're recommending for your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, El Rey, by Tito Puente and his Latin Ensemble. It's on the Concord/Picante label. For NPRJazz, I'm A.B. Spellman.

MURRAY HORWITZ: And, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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