Although legendary Latin music percussionist, composer and arranger Tito Puente is no longer with us, the music and magic that was Tito Puente lives on in his son Tito Puente Jr. It’s in his looks, his joy, his music that Tito Puente Jr. carries his father with him. It’s imprinted in his physical being and locked in his soul, the comparison is inevitable.
Since the passing away of his father in 2000, Tito Puente Jr. has taken the torch and carried the family tradition. With his own band he keeps alive the music, the memory, and the man by traveling all around the country and introducing to a whole new generation to an era of Latin music that gave way to many Latin artist and musicians today.
It was an honor to be able to catch up with Tito Puente Jr. and get an exclusive interview with him.
é: Growing up with a famous father, you probably had many options to pursue as a career. At what moment did you know you wanted pursue a career as a performing artist, and tell us about how you learned to play?
TPJ: I felt right at the ripe age of 16-17 yrs old; I wanted to be a percussion player. I did not learn from my father how to play drums at all. He was very instrumental in pushing me into getting educated in music school.
é: It’s obvious your dad was a great influence in your life. Besides your dad, who were some of your biggest musical influences, and why?
TPJ: I like a lot of the old school salsa like Fania All Stars and Hector Lavoe. They have the essence of Latin music in what it takes to get people from all over the world to move.
é: I’ve seen both you and your dad perform on stage and you both have such ease with connecting with your audiences. Where does that come from?
TPJ: We are completely blessed by none other than our heavenly Father. That magic is a spirit that he has blessed us with. I never question that ability that my father and I have, I only embrace it and share it with the audience.
é: Of all the great Latin band leaders, your father’s name is among the most recognized around the world and certainly the most recognized in the U.S. What, in your opinion, did he do as a musician and band leader to stand out among them all?
TPJ: It was his tight arrangements and compositions that had all the power in his music. His stage presence could not be reckoned with. You could feel the passion from him and that plus many other factors are reasons why his career and talent lasted over 50 years. He was the Latin music ambassador worldwide.
é: What advice do you have for American Latino youth who are searching for a way to connect with their roots through the music of their culture? How much of a role does your fathers music play in this connection?
TPJ: He had mostly everything to do with Latin music being popular in the US and worldwide. What other name is more synonymous with Latin music than Tito Puente?
The youth should always remember where this music comes from, it was from the KING Tito Puente. He made sure that every corner of this earth was blessed by his sounds. He paved the way for so many talents you see today.
é: What does it mean to you to carry on Latino music, your fathers sound, to the generations to come?
TPJ: This is my destiny to continue his legacy and keep his name alive and his work heard. No one on this planet can present and feel more connected to him and his music more than I can. I have done this for over 10 years since his passing and a lot of bands have come and gone. But I am still here presenting his music to the masses around the world. It makes sense when you see my concert live in order to understand. You can feel as if my father were still alive right there in the concert hall!
é: Tell us about your new CD “Got Mambo”? How did it come about? who are the musicians on it, and where can we purchase or download-load it.
TPJ: My latest CD, “Got Mambo” has 11 cuts that have hot mambos! And with guests like Ricky Melendez, Kevin Ceballo, Bobby Cruz , José Arroyo and Hansel & Raul too. Some of this stuff is simply terrific salsa, and a good portion is pure capital “M” Mambo done old school and with a lot of muscle. This one is a Must-Have and a big DJ Alert. Pick it up @ www.cdbaby.com/titopuentejr4 Or iTunes, Amazon.com.