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Bringing 'El Rey' To A Younger Crowd; CLASSICS; Tito Puente Jr. Says His Father's Music Lets People Forget Their Troubles For Awhile


April 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE, Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

Tito Puente Jr. is not trying to be a copy of his father, the late legendary mambo/salsa musician Tito Puente. Puente said he only tries to make his father's classics more appealing to younger listeners.

"I want to take Tito Puente's music to the next generation. A lot of these kids know who Big Pun was, Kelly Price, etc. They need to know who Tito Puente was and who Celia Cruz is," Puente said. "That's what their parents and grandparents grew up listening to. I want the kids to remember it and appreciate it."

To promote his third album, "Tito Puente Jr.: Greatest Club Remixes," Puente will perform tonight at the Century Club in Century City. He will also perform at Fiesta Broadway on Sunday in downtown Los Angeles.

Born and raised in New York City, Puente became a musician under the tutelage of his father who was known as "El Rey (The King)." As a teenager he would travel with his father on tours. "I went on the road three months a year with Pop," Puente said. "Living out of suitcases wasn't that great, but we just had so much fun out there. You learn so much living with an icon like that. He's instilled the Puente music in me, and I enjoy using what he taught me."

He began with percussion, then studied piano and composition. He attended school in Long Island where he studied music.

As an adult, Puente began playing in New York City clubs.

His music is a fusion of dance music with pop and Latin jazz. He also instills in it influences of mambo, cha cha and merengue.

"My music is morning music. You put it on your radio and you're ready to take on the world," Puente said. "My dad's music was always meant for moving. (We) always wanted people to dance. We do our best to forget about everyday issues and just have a good time."

Because Puente makes remixes of his father's music, he is sometimes accused of wanting to be "The King."

"I'll always be compared to El Rey and am constantly asked 'Are you trying to be like your father?' No, I want to take his music to the next level. I'm not super prolific like he was," Puente said. "I make people forget about their problems and feel good for at least 90 minutes with the music of El Rey."

Although Puente resides in Miami, he travels to promote his music and recently performed in Puerto Rico for men and women in the service on his first USO Celebrity Entertainment Tour.

As spokesman for a new Latin-inspired clothing line, Havanera from Perry Ellis, Puente will make appearances at JC Penney stores from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Montebello Town Center in Montebello and Saturday at the Northridge Fashion Center in Northridge.

Accepting awards on behalf of his father also has become a big responsibility for the singer. Since the death three years ago of Puente Sr., he has received three Grammys and many posthumous recognitions.

Recently Telemundo filmed a tribute to Puente Sr. featuring appearances by many celebrities including Jimmy Smits, Roselyn Sanchez, Rosie Perez, Jon Secada and Sheila E. The show was a mix of big-band instrumentals and Spanish-language songs written by the Mambo King.

"I love hearing stories about my father. Every single one of them is a comical one. There is never a negative one," Puente said.

"He always gave the people the chance to forget about their problems with his music."

* * *


Tito Puente Jr. and Johnny Polanco

Century City: 9 p.m. today, The Century Club, 10131 Constellation Blvd., $15 before 10 p.m., $20 after 10 p.m., (310) 553-6000.

Los Angeles: As part of Fiesta Broadway in downtown Los Angeles which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., free, (310) 914-0015. On the Web:

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