Happy 4/20 birthday shout-out to the iconic Tito Puente! Best known as a Simpsons charact...haha just kidding! Among the Nuyorican musical greats, there has never been a dull moment with El Rey's brand of fiery and entertaining Latin jazz. His first notable pro gig was with Machito during WW2, before serving his own tour. After receiving medals as a "war hero" he started a nonet, The Piccadilly Boys, in '47. He led one of the great orchestras of the classic mambo era, often featuring percussion battles with Tito and top players on the scene.
In 1960, his band was just the second Latin orchestra to ever tour Japan. In the late '60s his song "Oye Como Va" was covered to much acclaim by the Santana band. He was a great composer in his own right, but also tastefully covered other tunes from jazz standards to rock & pop, including songs by Thelonious Monk, Santana (returning the favor!), Tommy James and others. His instrumental arsenal included timbales, congas, bongos, trap drums, vibraphone, marimba, piano and even saxophone. He was also a producer for several vocalists and musicians (including La Lupe). He has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Eddie Palmieri, Phil Woods and on the Nuyorican Soul project.
The notoriously flamboyant showman was also a restaurateur. He covered a lot of musical ground in his career: mambo, jazz, Afro-Cuban, salsa, son, boleros, cha cha cha, boogaloo, bossa nova, fusion and pop. He was also a Santeria priest.