Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Puente Tribute Vid 7 feat. Eddie Palmieri.....

This is the last of the series of videos in which Tito's orchestra pays tribute to the late great Puente. Eddie and Tito had recorded a CD together in which the tune Picadillo was featured. Here Eddie recreates some of those moments with the orchestra as several members such as Mario Rivera, John Walsh, Ray Vega and Bernie Minoso are given solo spots to show their stuff. Eddie also takes a rare timbal solo to cap the evening.

Puente Tribute Vid 6

Friday, May 15, 2009

Puente Tribute Vid 4

Puente Tribute Vid 3 9/20/00

Puente Tribute...Vid 2

Tremendo Rumbon.....

On Sept. 20th, 2000...the Tito Puente Orchestra paid tribute to their leader and inspiration Maestro Tito Puente at the South Street Seaport. The seaport has been no stranger to some fantastic music over the years and this day was no different; in fact it was exceptional. Tito had passed away not long before this concert and the band members, arguably one of the best ensembles of Latin musicians ever assembled, came to play. The addition of Arturo Sandoval and Eddie Palmieri on select tunes just pushed the music over the top. Alfie Alvarado's footage is great and I've decided to put up as many as eight videos from the concert. This is the first and will give you an idea of the quality of music you can expect from the rest. Que Viva La Musica, Que Viva Tito Puente!

Tito Puente Orch. @ South St. Seaport 9/20/00

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Memoriam: Manny Oquendo

Manny Oquendo, Latin Band Leader and Stylistic Innovator, Dies at 78

(Photo Credit: Jack Vartoogian/Front Row Photos)

From the NYTimes

Published: April 12, 2009

Manny Oquendo, the Latin band leader, timbale player and percussionist who was an expert with the típico Cuban rhythmic style and later infused it into Latin jazz, died on March 25 in the Bronx. He was 78.

The cause was complications from a kidney operation, said Andy González, his musical director of 35 years in their band, Libre.

Mr. Oquendo’s involvement with Cuban rhythms on the timbales and bongos dated back to his childhood. Born in 1931 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to parents from Puerto Rico, Jose Manuel Oquendo spent most of his formative years in Spanish Harlem, where he lived above Almacénes Hernández, the area’s early famed Latin record store, and later on Kelly Street in the Bronx. Also nearby on Kelly Street were Arsenio Rodríguez, the celebrated master of the tres, the Cuban guitarlike instrument, and future music stars like Joe Cuba, the Palmieri Brothers and Little Ray Romero.

Mr. Oquendo began playing a trap drum set at 15 and later took lessons, alongside the future jazz drummer Max Roach, from Sam Ulano, a well-known teacher.

By the late 1940s, he was playing with New York’s top bands along with Chano Pozo and Juan Torres, known as El Boy. When Mr. Oquendo joined Tito Puente’s orchestra as a bongo player he often used his sartorial and musical talents to attract the attention of the surging seas of dancers in places like the Palladium ballroom. In 1962, he joined Eddie Palmieri’s seminal band, La Perfecta, which challenged the big band scene with a smaller, conjunto lineup that called for fewer players and more improvisation.

Those familiar with the traditional dance hall rhythms of Cuban mambos, guarachas and rumbas could see that Mr. Oquendo’s approach to his instruments was intentionally understated.

“First of all, you shouldn’t overplay,” Mr. Oquendo said in an 1997 interview with Latin Beat magazine.

“The timbales are for providing accompaniment, backup for the group; and a good timbalero must have a strong left hand to play the tumbao and pailas or cascara,” he said, referring to different rhythmic patterns in a measure. “The timbalero must always keep the beat.”

While playing in La Perfecta, where he met Mr. González, his future musical director and a bassist, Mr. Oquendo picked up and adapted the complex carnival rhythm called Mozambique, made popular in Cuba by Pello El Afrokán, and reworked it for the timbales, introducing a hypnotic African beat to the dance halls of New York. In 1974, he and Mr. González began Libre, creating a sound outside traditional parameters.

Libre has released 12 albums, including the popular “Mejor que Nunca. ”

In a review of a 1983 concert in The New York Times, Jon Pareles called Libre a traditionalist band with infusions of modal Afro-Cuban jazz that made it progressive.

“But when Libre charges into its arrangements, which unite three trombones, Dave Valentin’s nimbly assertive flute, two singers and a sizzling rhythm section,” Mr. Pareles wrote, “those categories are lost in the beat.”

In his 1997 interview with Latin Beat, Mr. Oquendo said: “It’s important to develop the ear and get a deeper knowledge of the music, and once you become good at the instrument, you must always remember to try to be original, be yourself. You can borrow, you can take, you can even steal, but you do not imitate.”

Among Mr. Oquendo’s survivors are two sisters, Jean Vega and Lydia Crespo.

Mr. González said Libre would continue and said he was planning a tribute concert on May 30 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts for Mr. Oquendo, who played with the band until January.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ukranian Plena?

Being of Ukranian parentage (with a little Finnish thrown in) I am of course curious as to what inroads Afro Caribbean culture has made into the land of my ancestors. It was on this search that I found Los Dislocados, a Ukranian band that plays not only Latin dance music, but apparently Plena as well. Any question as to how powerful this musical form is can be put to rest forever.