Various Artists

Latin Beats: A Tribute to Tito Puente

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Latin Beats: A Tribute to Tito Puente is an excellent collection of tracks inspired by the late Tito Puente, but original plans to launch the album in September 2000 were sadly changed due to Puente's passing earlier that summer. However, Latin Beats captures the musical vibrancy left behind by "King of the Mambo/El Rey" Puente and the various musicians who were affected by his tantalizing playing style and specific compositions. Mr. Bongo, the U.K.-based Latin/Brazilian label, makes a delightful dedication with 18 sizzling tracks, full of salsa-tinged percussion. Sabu Martinez' "Hotel Alyssa Soussie" is a fiery album opener and a definitive trendsetter, with its thunderous cymbals and intoxicating drumbeats setting the tone. Cuban horns are vivacious on Juan Pablo Torres' "Rompe Cocorico," and the modern stylings of Beny More's "Babarabatiri" are appropriately touching, but it's Puente's own "Tito's Odyssey" and "Hit the Bongo" that tie everything together. So to make it memorable, Mr. Bongo did a splendid job without the frilly common songs and major mainstream chart-toppers. Latin Beats is a decent package, well-suited for all age groups so that any listener can absorb the perfection of Tito Puente.

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