World & Latin

Get This Party Started

27 DEC 07 JOHN C. BRUENING

Party at Puente's Place is a two-disc package from 2004 that combines two of the Latin King's most acclaimed recordings -- On Broadway (1983) and Mambo Diablo (1985) -- in their entirety.

Both were Grammy-winners, and it's not hard to figure out why. Throughout both discs, Tito Puente picks and chooses from a variety of stylistic sources -- jazz standards, music from Brazilian masters, his own compositions and more.

Where else are you going to find a percussive rendition of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," a decidedly Latin reading of the heretofore very American pop/jazz classic "On Broadway," and a churning delivery of Milton Nascimento's "Salt Song, all woven together so expertly that not a single seam shows anywhere?

While Puente and his timbales remain at the focal point throughout both sets, he is assisted along the way by several able-bodied session players: pianist Jorge Dalto, multi-reed player Mario Rivera, trumpeter Ray Gonzalez, guitarist Edgardo Miranda and violinist Alfredo de la Fe. Pianist George Shearing steps in briefly to help Puente with a finely crafted rendition of Shearing's own "Lullaby of Birdland."

Puente was arguably one of the first Latin artists to successfully mix, match and graft stylistic and cultural shades in ways that appealed a broad audience. What's more, he always made it look so easy. That confident, freewheeling sensibility is the driving force behind this satisfying two-album release.

Like any good party, the one at Puente's Place has an energy and a groove that's never forced yet always self-sustaining. Every gathering should sound and feel this good.