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  • Tito Puente

    Called “El Rey of the timbales,” Tito Puente was the king of Latin jazz. A New York Puerto Rican born in Spanish Harlem, he brought his mambos, cha-cha-chas, and son cubanos to the mainstream. He was at the height of popularity in the ’50s, releasing Dance Mania in 1958, but his influence has lasted for decades. Exploring bossa nova and eventually fusing Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz into what became known as salsa (a term he and many of the genre’s other originators disliked), his influence went on to inspire more fusion in artists like Carlos Santana (“Oye Como Va”). In addition to receiving multiple Grammy Awards, the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, and the key to New York City over his 50-year career, Puente appeared on the television series The Cosby Show and The Simpsons as well as in the films The Mambo Kings and Calle 54. He received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
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