Three-Day Tribute to Tito Puente to Kick Off on El Rey's Birthday

AP Photo/Rick Maiman
Tito Puente photographed on April 21, 1997 as he plays at a fund raising jazz benefit for St. Peter's Church in New York.

“Tito Puente: A 50-Year Retrospective of El Rey,” will take place at the The Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx.

Tito Puente, who is often considered a salsa pioneer, liked to say that salsa isn’t music, it’s something you put on spaghetti.

He would surely be pleased to know that one of the panels during a three-day conference devoted to Puente’s impact on Latin music is titled “Don’t Call it Salsa,” and that the panelists include former Puente musical director José Madera, percussionist and Típica‘73 founder John “Dandy” Rodrìguez, Tito Puente’s eldest son, vibraphonist Ronnie Puente; eminent NY Latin musicologist René López, his biographer, Joe Conzo, Sr., and Latin Jazz percussionist and educator Annette Aguilar.

That meeting of illustrious Latin music minds will be part of “Tito Puente: A 50-Year Retrospective of El Rey,” to take place at the The Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx.

Billed as a historical retrospective of the life and legacy of one of the most important figures in Latin music, the three-day celebration of Puente’s career is set to with the documentary Tito Puente – the King of Latin Music on kick off April 20th, which would have been Puente’s 94th birthday.

Filmed shortly before Puente’s death on May 31, 2000 at age 77, the film captures the rock-star timbale player and bandleader looking back on his career and the development of Latin jazz and Cuban-rooted dance music in New York.

After the screening, Conzo and another Puente confidant, Robert Sancho, will observe their friend’s birthday by swapping stories about “El Rey.”

The Tito Puente retrospective will also include three concerts – including an introduction to Puente for children and a closing “Dancemania” party on April 22, when salsa DJ Roy Lopez will spin Puente’s best-known tracks. Sounds like the tribute to Spanish Harlem’s native son could be the Nuyorican party of the year.