Tito Puente’s Quatro

[NY Daily News, April 10, 2013]

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The Beat Keeps On Going

Everybody knows who Tito Puente was and can immediately picture him banging on the timbales or a vibraphone with his infectious smile and bugged-out eyes. But with a career that produced more than 100 albums, knowing where to start appreciating his body of work is a daunting task. Enter Quatro, a recently released box set of 4 of his seminal RCA albums recorded between 1955 and 1960 plus a fifth disc of outtakes and rarities, lovingly curated and remastered by Sony Music Latin A&R Director Anthony Gonzalez.

“One thing that was clear in my mind was that it was not going to be another so-called ‘Greatest Hits’ or ‘Best of’,” says Gonzalez of the project that began soon after Puente’s passing in 2000. “That can just not be done to someone of Tito Puente’s stature.”

So Gonzalez listened to his entire RCA catalog, trying to hear something that would be able to synthesize the New Yorker’s genius. Something he “had not heard before.”

“The more I listened, the more I discovered that the key, the foundation to all of Tito’s later albums were somehow a hybrid or offspring of these four albums,” he says of Cuban Carnival (1956), Night Beat (1957), Dance Mania (1958) and Revolving Bandstand (1960), whose colorful LP-sleeves have been carefully replicated in the CD version of the box set. “His style and sound developed from these four albums.”

“If you listen to tracks like ‘Ran Kan Kan’ and ‘Pa’ Los Rumberos’ carefully, you hear everything that came afterwards and that is still being produced by other artists,” says Gonzalez, pressed to choose two key tracks of the set. “Just as Tito used to modestly state that his music had its origins in Afro-Cuban music, Tito’s music was the cradle, blanket and rattle for the sound that later came to be known as Salsa.”

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