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Tito Puente - Research Paper Example

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Ramakrishna Surampudi 11 May 2011 Tito Puente: An Institution Typing in the name Tito Puente in a search engine turns out millions of pages about the legendary musician, bandleader, composer, arranger, percussionist and entertainer. They mostly deal with his childhood, biographical details and the honors he won…
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Download file to see previous pages Tito Puente is a multi-faceted genius with versatility, innovation, experimentation, flamboyance and attitude. Above all, he was a great human being. Without throwing light on these aspects, any portrait sketch of Tito remains incomplete. Tito, born on April 20, 1923 in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, was seven years old when he was enrolled in 25-cent piano lessons (Hispanic Heritage). Fascinated by Gene Krupa, drummer, he started the study of percussion at the age of ten and first performed at the age of thirteen. In his teens, joined Noro Morales and the Machito Orchestra. After completing his study at the Julliard School of Music, he formed his group ‘the Piccadilly Boys’ which later became ‘the Tito Puente Orchestra’ (Puente, Tito). His 1958 album ‘Dance Mania’ was placed among the 25 most influential albums of the 20th century by the New York Times. Key to the City of New York (1969), James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1990), National Medal of Arts (1997) and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2003) were just a few of the innumerable honors conferred on him. Tito is considered to be the godfather of Latin jazz and salsa. However, to say that Tito is an artiste associated with salsa and Latin jazz is a simplistic statement. It presents things in too narrow a light to give an accurate and objective evaluation of Tito’s place, at large, in the world of music. Firstly, it would be injustice to Tito’s soul to brand him just a musician considering his notion that ‘if there is no dance, there is no music’. It is amusing to know that his original dream was to become a dancer. Eddie Torres felt it was a privilege to be identified as the Tito Puente Dancers (Salsa Dancing – New York Style). Then, as a musician, to limit Tito to mambo and jazz is a very inadequate description. His versatility ran the gamut of piano, conga drums, claves, bateria, tap drums along with saxophone and even clarinet. As for the nature of his music, it was only the roots that were Latin. These roots were aesthetically integrated with several other components like the Cuban sounds, the African sounds, the black jazz, the big band swing, bebop, Yoruba tradition, the vibes, the Oriental influence and Kenton progressive style. The integration was done in such a manner that the end product would be appealing to music lovers. It appealed first to a white audience and then to the entire world. Tito defied the Spanish cultural tyranny over Latin music. He brought the African percussion to the mainstream and thus ended the prevalent animosity towards African music. Thanks to his style, the black musicians could shed their inhibitions. Tito’s method was a skilful manipulation of the Afro-Cuban pattern to fit into the framework of the American big band prototype. He was adept in incorporating Latin rhythms in jazz and popular music. The song ‘Hong Kong Mambo’ from the album ‘Dance Mania’ illustrates Tito’s skill in bringing together Latin music and Oriental melody (McNeese 84). In the song ‘Varsity Drag Mambo’, he blends swing jazz of the Big Band style with mambo rhythm. Tito was known for his inclination to experiment with music. But in this process he was cautious not to interfere with the absolute beauty of music. When he went for improvisation in his orchestration, there were three ways in which he would do that. In the first type, the original melody would be completely adhered to. Only a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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