Tito Puente

Greatest Hits

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Part of the Serie Cristal, Tito Puente's Greatest Hits was released by RMM Records in 1997, presumably for the Spanish-speaking world, soon after the re-release of his 100th album, The Mambo King. The album begins innocently enough with "New Arrival," which sounds remarkably like regular American jazz, aside from the timbales, until a stiff Latin piano erupts and transforms the song into a deeply tropical piece. "Sun Flower" is a slower piece of ambient jazz, followed by "Afro Blue," which invokes more African rhythms. One of the prime highlights of the album, though, is "Celia Y Tito," a dream duet of tropical Latin sounds, as Celia Cruz and Tito Puente combine for a number. "Hay Que Trabajar" is a peppy, repetitive song, with vocals chanting "Hay Que Trabajar" (there's work to be done). After this is "El #100," a song from the Mambo King album, commemorating his 100th album. Finally, "Mambo Sentimental" is a slower-paced mambo from the undisputed mambo king, which showcases all of the things that make Tito Puente the mambo king. The horn section plays tight riffs over Puente's timbale rhythms until it breaks to a piano solo, then reverts to the full band mambo, from where it ends with a soft bang. There's a reason that Tito Puente was proclaimed to be the mambo king, and this album shows that reason with a full tour de force by the master himself. In some ways, it might be superior to some of the American-greatest hits releases, as it doesn't attempt to cater to the Americanized Latin jazz preferences. Tight horn sections and tighter rhythm sections along with a freewheeling nature make for a wonderful album.

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