In the heyday of the Latin big-band era, the undisputed titans—known as “The Big Three”—provided some of the most inspiring sounds ever heard this side of Havana. Machito, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente made their mark by forging new musical territory. For many, the most entertaining band was Puente’s. As musical eras came and went, Puente stayed at the top of his game until his passing in 2000. His collaborations with many vocalists over the years proved he could maintain his signature sound and charismatic personality while providing expert accompaniment to some of the great female Latin vocalists of the day, from Celia Cruz to La Lupe.
On Many Moods, Dominican vocalist Yolanda Duke, who sang with Puente during the mid to late 1990s, joins many members of the legend’s powerhouse big-band. Together they craft a mix of classic jazz standards—e.g., “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” “Misty”—done Latin, along with lesser known but equally appealing tunes by Cuban and Puerto Rican composers. Those under-recognized gems include the standout track, “La Peleona” by Marcelino Guerra, which features guest vocalist José Alberto “El Canario.”
The expert arranging by José Madera, Ray Santos, Gilbert López and others reminds us why Latin big-band music is so infectious. Although the majority of the album features English lyrics on standards by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart and Harold Arlen, it is the trio of Spanish tracks that seem the most on point for Duke’s style and delivery.