Remembering Tito Puente
This from Garrison Keillor:
It's the birthday of musician (Ernest Anthony) Tito Puente, (books by this author) born in New York, New York (1923-2000). He became known as El Rey, the Mambo King.
Puente always saw his music in terms of dance. He said, "I think as a dancer, not a musician. [I ask], 'How would it look as a dance?'" Even when recording his hundredth album, he insisted that the music be recorded live, with the entire orchestra present, as opposed to one section at a time, the way most recording is now done. When his agent suggested this might waste time, Puente replied, "You don't understand. ... I'm a dancer. I must dance in the studio while the whole thing is playing to see if it really works."
His obituary from the BBC provides background:
Musician Tito Puente, who was widely credited with shaping the sound of Latin jazz, has died in hospital in New York aged 77.
Puente recorded more than 100 albums in more than 60 years in the music industry.
He won his fifth Grammy earlier this year for Mambo Birdland, which won best traditional tropical Latin performance.
Among the artists he inspired was Carlos Santana, who recorded Puente's 1946 track Oye Como Va early in his career.
"Every time he plays Oye Como Va, I get a nice royalty cheque," Puente said.
The eldest son of Puerto Rican parents, he was born Ernest Anthony Puente Junior in New York on 20 April 1923.
His father, Ernest Senior, was a foreman in a razor blade factory, and his mother called their son Ernestito - little Ernest - which was later shortened to Tito.
She enrolled him in a piano class at the age of seven. He later studied drums before switching to the timbales - a pair of single-headed drums mounted on stands and played with sticks.
He changed jazz by bringing the timbales to the front of the stage, playing them standing up. Previously, they had been played behind the band.
"In front of a bandstand, you've got to be a showman," he said.
He had been released from a Puerto Rico hospital on 2 May after treatment for an irregular heartbeat, and had been resting during the month.
He leaves a wife, Margie, two sons and a daughter.