Tito Puente

Carnaval en Harlem

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Carnival en Harlem, despite its dodgy packaging, is a great Tito Puente set. Featuring the vocals of Santos Colon, and one of the tightest bands he ever put together, this set was recorded not in the late '40s or early '50s, but in 1999! So El Rey in 1999 still had it is spades, especially in singers. Colon leads a group that performs six pieces of the hottest son and charanga singing on any of Puente's records. The material is divided neatly between hot salsa tracks ("Mi Trompeta Tropical"), steamy romantic ballads ("Mirame Mas"), smokin' swing tunes ("Jumpin' With Symphony Sid"), and sons ("Pompo" and the title track), and the occasional rumba. such as "Rumba En El Patio." The only questionable selection here is a Latin version of the old Petula Clark nugget, you guessed it, "Downtown." It's got a nice groove and a wonderful brass tag, but the song isn't good, and nothing can rescue it, not even El Ray. Mercifully it's brief. The set closes on its strongest note with the stomping and furious merengue, "Corta El Bonche," with Colon soaring above the horns and the drums, careening from one side of the mix to the other, making it not only infectious in its rhythmic interplay, but downright viral.

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