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Tito Puente Jr. Brings Father's Music And Fest Crowd To Life

Nov. 22, 2008 — "I'm loving every minute of it," Tito Puente Jr. said Friday about performing.
He proved the truth of that statement Friday night and on into the small hours of Saturday morning, playing enthusiastically, dancing through songs, and joking a mile a minute with the packed crowd at the Second Annual Blue Bay Jazz Festival in Frederiksted.
He is the son, of course, of the late, legendary Latin music percussionist, composer and arranger Tito Puente, whose career as "El Rey" – the King – spanned half a century, seven Grammy Awards, 158 albums and thousands of performances.
"They called him the King of Latin music," Puente said of his father. "I tell people I'm not the prince. I'm more like the court jester."
In fact, Puente said, he had never planned to follow in his famous father's footsteps. Born in 1971, he had his own interests as a youth.
"Are you kidding? I wanted to play rock 'n' roll!" he said.
The "family business" didn't appeal to Puente until his father passed away in 2000 at the age of 77. Suddenly the younger Tito began to feel the pull of the family legacy, and began to perform his father's music.
Now he and his band cross the country keeping alive the music, the memory and the man.
"I'm not trying to replace him and never could," Puente said of his father. "What you'll see is — my father in me."
While preserving the integrity of the music and the memory of his father is important to Puente — "The music is the show," he said — he also has begun to expand his repertoire, and has a new album coming out next year. Friday night he performed one of the new songs for the Frederiksted crowd. While clearly in the same Latin vein, it showed contemporary influences in its rhythms and structure.
The music business has changed a lot since the days when Tito Puente Sr. was King of the Mambo. Then Puente would release two albums a year and tour constantly to support them — 200 and more shows a year. In those days you couldn't just release an album and expect people to buy it. By barnstorming across the country, performing constantly, you built a following of people who had seen you, liked your music and wanted to buy it.
Today is very different. Puente Jr. has a new album coming out next year and will tour to support it. But the tour will be much more limited than his father's cross-country jaunts.
In fact, the album won't even exist physically, not in the way his father's albums did. The album will be initially released online, Puente said, with people able to download the music from iTunes and other such internet venues.
The thousands who gathered in Frederiksted for the evening's performances had enjoyed and cheered enthusiastically for the VI Rhythm Section, the Louis Taylor Quartet and the Nathan Lucas Quartet. But throughout, the buzz of anticipation was for the headliner.
"I'm here for Tito, man! I want to see Tito!" said one young audience member, who gave his name as Sam, while waiting out the lengthy delay as the stage was set for the night's final act. As the musicians came on stage and began a lively, Conga-driven Latin rhythm, the balmy night air seemed to grow warmer. Then, as the audience began swaying to the insistent syncopation, Tito Puente Jr. burst onto the stage, his white shirt, coat and pants shining in the spotlight, and the crowd cheered.
With each number, the tight knot of fans at the front of the stage danced more enthusiastically, and even to the back of the crowd, that spilled over into the closed-off street, people cha-cha-ed, mamboed or just improvised lively, suggestive steps.
For another night, the King of Latin Music lived again.
— The Blue Bay Jazz Fest continues at 8 p.m. Saturday with performances by the Rhythmix Band, the Eddie Russell QLJ Band, Willie Martinez y Familia and headliner Pete Escovedo and Orchestra.
At 2 p.m. Sunday the festival concludes with a jam session at the Caribbean Museum
Center for the Arts. All musicians and singers are invited to participate in the open mike event.
Further information can be obtained online by visiting the Frederiksted Economic Development Association website.
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Nov. 22, 2008 -- "I'm loving every minute of it," Tito Puente Jr. said Friday about performing.
He proved the truth of that statement Friday night and on into the small hours of Saturday morning, playing enthusiastically, dancing through songs, and joking a mile a minute with the packed crowd at the Second Annual Blue Bay Jazz Festival in Frederiksted.
He is the son, of course, of the late, legendary Latin music percussionist, composer and arranger Tito Puente, whose career as "El Rey" – the King – spanned half a century, seven Grammy Awards, 158 albums and thousands of performances.
"They called him the King of Latin music," Puente said of his father. "I tell people I'm not the prince. I'm more like the court jester."
In fact, Puente said, he had never planned to follow in his famous father's footsteps. Born in 1971, he had his own interests as a youth.
"Are you kidding? I wanted to play rock 'n' roll!" he said.
The "family business" didn't appeal to Puente until his father passed away in 2000 at the age of 77. Suddenly the younger Tito began to feel the pull of the family legacy, and began to perform his father's music.
Now he and his band cross the country keeping alive the music, the memory and the man.
"I'm not trying to replace him and never could," Puente said of his father. "What you'll see is -- my father in me."
While preserving the integrity of the music and the memory of his father is important to Puente -- "The music is the show," he said -- he also has begun to expand his repertoire, and has a new album coming out next year. Friday night he performed one of the new songs for the Frederiksted crowd. While clearly in the same Latin vein, it showed contemporary influences in its rhythms and structure.
The music business has changed a lot since the days when Tito Puente Sr. was King of the Mambo. Then Puente would release two albums a year and tour constantly to support them -- 200 and more shows a year. In those days you couldn't just release an album and expect people to buy it. By barnstorming across the country, performing constantly, you built a following of people who had seen you, liked your music and wanted to buy it.
Today is very different. Puente Jr. has a new album coming out next year and will tour to support it. But the tour will be much more limited than his father's cross-country jaunts.
In fact, the album won't even exist physically, not in the way his father's albums did. The album will be initially released online, Puente said, with people able to download the music from iTunes and other such internet venues.
The thousands who gathered in Frederiksted for the evening's performances had enjoyed and cheered enthusiastically for the VI Rhythm Section, the Louis Taylor Quartet and the Nathan Lucas Quartet. But throughout, the buzz of anticipation was for the headliner.
"I'm here for Tito, man! I want to see Tito!" said one young audience member, who gave his name as Sam, while waiting out the lengthy delay as the stage was set for the night's final act. As the musicians came on stage and began a lively, Conga-driven Latin rhythm, the balmy night air seemed to grow warmer. Then, as the audience began swaying to the insistent syncopation, Tito Puente Jr. burst onto the stage, his white shirt, coat and pants shining in the spotlight, and the crowd cheered.
With each number, the tight knot of fans at the front of the stage danced more enthusiastically, and even to the back of the crowd, that spilled over into the closed-off street, people cha-cha-ed, mamboed or just improvised lively, suggestive steps.
For another night, the King of Latin Music lived again.
-- The Blue Bay Jazz Fest continues at 8 p.m. Saturday with performances by the Rhythmix Band, the Eddie Russell QLJ Band, Willie Martinez y Familia and headliner Pete Escovedo and Orchestra.
At 2 p.m. Sunday the festival concludes with a jam session at the Caribbean Museum
Center for the Arts. All musicians and singers are invited to participate in the open mike event.
Further information can be obtained online by visiting the Frederiksted Economic Development Association website.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.