MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Hello, I'm Murray Horwitz. You know, it's hard to believe that Tito Puente is no longer with us. When he passed away in April of 2000, he left quite an impressive recorded legacy. Thank goodness. During the over 50 years he played music professionally, he recorded over 100 albums, most of them with a big Latin dance orchestra.
But for today's entry in the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, we turn to his work with a small ensemble. He's leading a group called The Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble, on the record Live at Montreux Jazz Festival 1980. It presents a stripped-down Tito Puente playing with some stellar Latin jazz musicians.
HORWITZ: This record has an interesting history. In the mid-1970s, an instrument manufacturer named Martin Cohen asked Tito Puente, and a handful of other Latin percussionists to make some records to help him market congas, timbales, and bongos. The recordings eventually became must-have's for Latin music aficionados and this album has become the most treasured.
You'll find a terrific mixture of young and old. The conga master Carlos "Patato" Valdes was featured along with Tito Puente. The younger musicians were the electric violinist Alfredo de la Fe and the pianist Jorge Dalto. And the bassist Michael Vinas was the perfect choice to tie the two generations together.
HORWITZ: The material is a mixture of the classic Cuban songbook, Latin jazz, and even a Rodgers & Hammerstein/John Coltrane reference.
HORWITZ: The album is Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1980 and it's by The Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble. It's on the LP Music Group label. The NPR Basic Jazz Record Library is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and NPR member stations. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.