June 15, 2004 – Seven-time Grammy Award winner Tito Nieves, whose hit song "I Like It Like That" secured a mainstream market for salsa in the English-speaking world, will headline Saturday night's Latin Festival at the Reichhold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas.
Nieves, known as "the Pavarotti of Salsa," is a relatively last-minute replacement for trombonist Willie Colón, billed as "the Legendary King of Salsa."
"Because of his commitment to politics, Mr. Colón's schedule has been hectic and as a result, with great regret, he will not be able to perform as our featured artist for the June 19 performance," a release from the Reichhold Center announced a couple of weeks ago.
Nieves, whose singing career spans nearly three decades, has managed to fit St. Thomas into his own busy schedule that had him headlining Puerto Rican Day dance and parade festivities in New York last weekend and sees him heading down to Lima, Peru, for appearances next week.
Born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, but taken as a 1-year-old to New York City, where he was raised, Humberto "Tito" Nieves became one of the leading salseros of the 1980s, and was widely known as "the Pavarotti of salsa" in the early '90s because of his clear and powerful voice, according to the Music of Puerto Rico Foundation.
Growing up in a family of musicians, he studied drums, guitar and bass as a youngster. He got his professional career start at the age of 15 singing with the New York-based Orquesta Cimarron. He then teamed up with Héctor LaVoe in 1977 and two years later was offered the opportunity to record for the first time, as a lead singer with the group Taibori. Soon after, he co-founded Conjunto Clásico, which went on to secure an influential place in the performance of Afro-Caribbean music.
Embarking on a solo career in 1986, Nieves set himself apart by singing salsa in English — and by carving out a place for what today is known as salsa nuyorquina, or "the New York sound." His first solo album, "Classic," went gold. So did his next one, "Yo Quiero Cantar," which contained "I'll Always Love You," the first salsa song in English to hit the top of the charts in Puerto Rico as well as some markets on the mainland.
He topped the charts definitively in 1997 with "I Like It Like That" such a hit that the Burger King chain co-opted it for commercials and sports fans heard it regularly at major league baseball and NBA games. The song was from Nieves' album of the same name, consisting of salsa songs entirely in English.
According his publicity biography, "Never has there been an artist like Nieves whose blend of salsa, rhythm and blues, Caribbean folklore and pop quickly became a favorite of music lovers all around the world."
His other hits include "Can You Stop the Rain" and "You Bring Me Joy" in English and "De mi enamorate," "Te amo" and "Almohada" in Spanish.
In 2000, he signed with Warner Music Latina and released his first Grammy Award-winning album, "En otra onda." The first single, "Un amor asi," hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Charts and was followed by many other successes including "Como llego a tu amor," featuring the legendary Ruben Blades.
Nieves became the first tropical Latin artist to tour in the Cayman Islands, while continuing to strengthen his liaisons with markets in Hispanic nations such as Colombia and Venezuela. But it is in his homeland of Puerto Rico where he gives the greatest number of performances.
"Muy Agradecido," his album released in 2002, includes five salsas, two boleros and one cumbia (a music and dance form of Colombia). The CD features a number of guest artists including the late "Queen of Salsa," Celia Cruz, who performed on the Reichhold stage to a sold-out house two and a half years ago. It was recorded in New York, Miami, Puerto Rico and Colombia.
His most recent release, last year's "Oro Salsero," is a collection of 20 of his hits.
According to his Web site, while Nieves is very much into love songs (hence the Pavarotti label), "he wants people to have fun, to dance, to listen to his music and lyrics."
Tickets and Travel Packages
Tickets for the Latin Fiesta are $45 in the covered section and $35 in the recently refurbished open-air seats. They're being sold at Parrot Fish Music, Krystal & Gifts Galore, both Modern Music locations, the UVI bookstore in the Sports and Fitness Center and the Reichhold box office on St. Thomas; and at Connections in Cruz Bay on St. John. They also may be purchased with a major charge card by calling the Reichhold box office at 693-1559.
The Reichhold Center has put together overnight packages for St. Croix and Puerto Rican fans wanting to take in the Latin Fiesta.
Included the package price are one concert ticket in the covered section; round-trip air travel on Seaborne Airlines; one night's accommodations at Palms Court Harborview Hotel, Emerald Beach Resort or the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel; and ground transportation to the hotel, concert venue and airport.
Prices are $310 to $330 from St. Croix and $325 to $360 from Puerto Rico. Call the Reichhold Center box office at 693-1559 to see if reservations are still being accepted.
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