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Cubarama Let's Cha Cha

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Album Review

Recorded over three days in New York in 1956, Let's Cha Cha Cha is one of a multitude of early albums from Tito Puente & His Orchestra. In 1994, RCA remastered it among others as part of a Tropical Series. The album opens with a cha cha, then through a nice piece from Obdulio Morales and into a guajira on the vibes (Puente's much-less-known instrument, but an exciting performance). Another cha cha follows in the title track, followed itself by a light horn and flute romp with remnants of the Big Bad Wolf involved. A punchier work from Ray Coen comes in "Habenero" and Johnny Conquet's "Just for You" and "Cha Cha Fiesta" are both exemplar simple cha chas. A pair from Justi Barreto follow with a vocal aspect added in that gives them a bit more flavor, and a piece from Mongo Santamaria follows them up. The album finishes on a pair from Puente himself, with some slightly more complex horn arrangements. All in all, it's perhaps not as exciting as a lot of his later work, but it's a fine example of his full arranging abilities and the earlier, less percussion-based cha chas, mambos, and exotica that formed the basis for Puente's success. Fans of Puente should certainly give the album a shot, though newcomers might do better to start with a retrospective of some sort.

Biography

Born: 20 April 1923 in New York, NY

Genre: Latino

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

By virtue of his warm, flamboyant stage manner, longevity, constant touring, and appearances in the mass media, Tito Puente is probably the most beloved symbol of Latin jazz. But more than that, Puente managed to keep his music remarkably fresh over the decades; as a timbales virtuoso, he combined mastery over every rhythmic nuance with old-fashioned showmanship — watching his eyes bug out when taking a dynamic solo was one of the great treats for Latin jazz fans. A trained musician, he was...
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