Tito Puente

Oye Como Va: The Dance Collection

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Given Tito Puente's staggeringly prolific output of recordings, obviously no single disc can sum it up, so Concord Picante sensibly calls this compendium a "dance" collection. With the aim to keep the mambos, guajiras and cha chas moving and grooving foremost in mind, there is still a great deal of variety in this CD -- powerhouse big-band sounds, classic eight-piece salsa ensembles, lots of burning jazz solos from such firebrands as sax veteran Mario Rivera, and even a touch of the Orient on "Chang." In a bit of a surprise, there are several welcome featured marimba solos for Puente, along with his standard timbales explosions and animated vibraphone spots. Though Puente has a fairly deep backlog of Picante material from which to choose, the live 1984 El Rey album receives far more attention than its cousins -- four uninterrupted cuts close the album. But the concentration is worth the space, for we hear one of his hottest versions of "Oye Como Va," as well as other potent examples of how Puente could and still can fire up an audience. The whole package is a testament to Puente's apparently unquenchable vitality in what would be anyone else's dotage. You can definitely dance to this.

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