August 7, 1996: Tito Puente's Ravinia Debut
Tito Puente, one of the most influential Latin artists in history, made his Ravinia debut 20 years ago with a plethora of his best Latin jazz contemporaries, including Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, and David Sanchez. The Chicago Tribune effused that “this concert gathered more Latin jazz talent onto a single stage than any event on the Chicago area’s musical calendar” and “the level of musicianship, technical accomplishment, solo firepower, and ensemble virtuosity was high throughout, with each band and every star shedding light on a different facet of the Latin jazz tradition.”
Puente passed away in 2000, but his influence on Latin music still resonates through its many flavors, from mambo to rumba to salsa to jazz, and he left behind a monumental body of work. “Oye Como Va,” the hit song made popular by Carlos Santana, was originally a Tito Puente composition. Puente was a dynamic and highly entertaining performer, well known for his exaggerated facial expressions and animated timbale playing, bringing the rhythm instrument to the forefront of his big band.