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Tito Puente: Live at the Playboy Jazz Festival

Probably no one did more than Tito Puente to advance the profile of Latin music-here referring to Afro-Caribbean influenced styles such as mambo, salsa, Latin jazz and all the other catch words used over the past 50 years or so, a period of time that, not coincidentally, matches the lifespan of Puente’s legendary career.

And explodes is what Puente and his cast of all-stars does on this CD, taken from a live recording at the 1994 Playboy Jazz Festival. More top-heavy than Misses June and July combined, this group consisting of Andy Gonzales, Hilton Ruiz, Mario Rivera, Giovanni Hidalgo, Charlie Sepulveda, Dave Valentin and Ignacio Berroa continues Puente’s tradition of assembling some of the best talent available to accompany his always blazing work on the timbales, and this outing proves the point well. Some inspired solos by Rivera on soprano and Sepulveda on trumpet, along with the always amazing Gonzales on bass, should be enough to satisfy most jazz fans, while the Puente accent and a guest shot by Mongo Santamaria slather on enough salsa for the Latin lovers in the audience.

Is Live at the Playboy Jazz Festival his best recording? Not by a long shot, but as always with Puente it’s lots of fun to listen to.

Originally Published