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miércoles, febrero 18, 2009

Tite Alonso: What It's All About

Tite Alonso

Sometimes, there's a cross-over from one world to another. The appearance of the unexpected of one culture across a vast gulf in another. An example: today's New York Times article on Tite Alonso. An excerpt:

He never did give up that day job, laboring in the Postal Service in Puerto Rico for more than 30 years, mainly as a clerk. But in the recording studio the biggest names in salsa, from Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe to Celia Cruz and La Lupe, all deferred to Catalino Curet Alonso, the man — known to all as Tite (pronounced “TEE-tay”) — who seemed to be able to write hits for them at will.

“Tite was El Maestro, the essence of what we call salsa or Antillean or Caribbean music,” said the singer Cheo Feliciano, whose career was revived when his association with Mr. Curet began in 1970 and who went on to record 45 of Mr. Curet’s songs. “He didn’t play piano and only knew a couple of chords on the guitar. But he was a wellspring of expression who knew how to write songs that were made to measure for your style, the way a tailor makes a suit.”

A little over five years after Mr. Curet’s death at age 77, there has been a revival of interest in his music, on a pair of fronts. When Fania Records late last month released “Alma de Poeta” (“A Poet’s Soul”), a two-CD compilation of the original versions of 31 of his most popular compositions, it entered Billboard’s Latin music chart at No. 5 and immediately became the top-selling recording in Puerto Rico.

Also in January, a settlement was announced in a complicated legal dispute over performance rights that since the mid-1990s had not only prevented hundreds of Mr. Curet’s best-known songs from being played by radio stations but also discouraged salsa artists from recording his compositions, or even playing them in concert. As a result, Curet-written standards like “Anacaona” and “Periódico de Ayer” (“Yesterday’s Paper”) are now back on the air and once again animating Caribbean dance floors.
OK. This conveys something important, but it's something you have to hear. It's not necessarily something you get by reading and imagining. What you need (ah the joys of the Internet) to understand how important Tite was, is to see and hear his music performed by a master. Like this:

Now you get it. That's the legendary Hector Lavoe and the tune is Tite Alonso at his best.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

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