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mikeweil

Tito Puente in the 1940' and 1950's

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9 minutes ago, kh1958 said:

The CDC has backed off from the advice that objects are a high risk of transmission...

My point is that I'm more conscious of germs than I was pre-pandemic, and rightfully so.

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Posted (edited)

On 9.6.2021 at 1:35 AM, Teasing the Korean said:

This album has eluded me.  How would you say it compares to the RCA Top Percussion, or at least to side 2 of Top Percussion? (Side 1 of the latter has drums and chanting.)

These two albums are quite different for me, in conception. Top Percussion for RCA is a display of various Cuban styles, featuring sacred music on side one (including vocals of ritual texts), and secular on side two (dance and carnival rhythms, including piano). Puente in Percussion for Tico has only the secular rhythms in more of a descarga (jam session) context, with long solos for three of the drummers featured (Puente, Santamaria, and Valdez), no vocals, and only a string bass supporting. Like thge five guys entering the studio, opening a bottle of rum and passing it around (or a joint, or none of this, if you prefer), and cutting loose. They were in top form, and Puente said somewhere they wouldn't have been able to repeat this as they all were playing their best that day. Maybe Puente had to fulfill his Tico contract and this was the fastest way to do it - that label was not to go for the concept albums Puente recorded for RCA, I think I read somewhere. All of Puente's RCA albums had a conceptual idea behind them, even though he first tracks were recorded with 78 rpm records in mind. More arranged and such, like in Top Percussion. Both are classics in their different ways, for Cuban percussion, the RCA for the concept, the Tico for the soloing, which is textbook stuff all the way through.

Edited by mikeweil

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11 minutes ago, mikeweil said:

These two albums are quite different for me, in conception. Top Percussion for RCA is a display of various Cuban styles, featuring sacred music on side one (including vocals of ritual texts), and secular on side two (dance and carnival rhythms, including piano). Puente in Percussion for Tico has only the secular rhythms in more of a descarga (jam session) context, with long solos for three of the drummers featured (Puente, Santamaria, and Valdez), no vocals, and only a string bass supporting. Like thge five guys entering the studio, opening a bottle of rum and passing it around (or a joint, or none of this, if you prefer), and cutting loose. They were in top form, and Puente said somewhere they wouldn't have been able to repeat this as they all were playing their best that day. Maybe Puente had to fulfill his Tico contract and this was the fastest way to do it - that label was not to go for the concept albums Puente recorded for RCA, I think I read somewhere. All of Puente's RCA albums had a conceptual idea behind them, even though he first tracks were recorded with 78 rpm records in mind. More arranged and such, like in Top Percussion. Both are classics in their different ways, for Cuban percussion, the RCA for the concept, the Tico for the soloing, which is textbook stuff all the way through.

Thank you!

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Posted (edited)

I just got a great deal on a MONO copy of my favorite Tito Puente album Tambo, from 1960.  

I have had this on CD for decades.  It is the stereo version, and mastered by a guy named Dick Baxter, whose mastering to my ears sounds brittle and tinny.  

This mono LP sounds fantastic, very full with lots of presence.  

R-2515952-1611349452-6253.png.jpg

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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4 hours ago, Teasing the Korean said:

I just got a great deal on a MONO copy of my favorite Tito Puente album Tambo, from 1960.  

I have had this on CD for decades.  It is the stereo version, and mastered by a guy named Dick Baxter, whose mastering to my ears sounds brittle and tinny.  

This mono LP sounds fantastic, very full with lots of presence.  

R-2515952-1611349452-6253.png.jpg

I have to say that I agree. I listened to this for the first time on LP in my university library many years ago, and it sounded fantastic. Whatever is available on CD is just lifeless in comparison.

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I can't resist.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

On 8/20/2020 at 5:41 PM, mikeweil said:

I finally decided to get me a copy of Joe Conzo's book, and do not regret it. In fact I find it a much more satisfying and informative read than Powell's book. The "discography" is a joke, just listing albums, but at least it led me to the last of the three CDs I just mentioned. 

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Picking up this thread to say that I agree with Mike 100% on this book.  I just finished reading it last night.  :g

It's super-easy to recommend for Tito-philes -- and, just as much, anyone who likes Latin music in general.  For example, I didn't realize that Puente shared an office in NYC with Charlie Palmieri and Joe Loco for many years.  So I learned a quite a bit about those guys -- and people like Machito, Mario Bauza, Tito Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, La Lupe, and others from the hey-day of The Palladium and after.  There's also quite a bit about industry guys like George Goldner, who started Tico Records, Morris Levy, who (believe it or not) was one of Tito's pals, and Fania Records co-founder Jerry Masucci, who Tito despised.

I do have to say that the writing is not excellent.  At times, it's repetitious and digressive -- so don't expect an especially pleasing reading experience.  But it's just got so much "insider info" that the less-than-stellar writing doesn't matter.  Conzo was a part of Puente's inner circle -- sorta like Stanley Dance was to Ellington, but even moreso.  Plus, Conzo wrote the book after Puente had died, so you get far more "unvarnished opinions" in his Tito book than Stanley Dance or the always-cagey Ellington would have EVER revealed.  So there's lots of juicy details about music -- both Tito's own as well as others'.  (One example: Tito's assessment of his recording with Eddie Palmieri: "It's shit. Eddie didn't show up.")  You get the idea: Tito doesn't pull any punches. 

All in all, it's good fun.  :tup 

 

Edited by HutchFan

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10 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

Picking up this thread to say that I agree with Mike 100% on this book.  I just finished reading it last night.  :g

It's super-easy to recommend for Tito-philes -- and, just as much, anyone who likes Latin music in general.  For example, I didn't realize that Puente shared an office in NYC with Charlie Palmieri and Joe Loco for many years.  So I learned a quite a bit about those guys -- and people like Machito, Mario Bauza, Tito Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, La Lupe, and others from the hey-day of The Palladium and after.  There's also quite a bit about industry guys like George Goldner, who started Tico Records, Morris Levy, who (believe it or not) was one of Tito's pals, and Fania Records co-founder Jerry Masucci, who Tito despised.

I do have to say that the writing is not excellent.  At times, it's repetitious and digressive -- so don't expect an especially pleasing reading experience.  But it's just got so much "insider info" that the less-than-stellar writing doesn't matter.  Conzo was a part of Puente's inner circle -- sorta like Stanley Dance was to Ellington, but even moreso.  Plus, Conzo wrote the book after Puente had died, so you get far more "unvarnished opinions" in his Tito book than Stanley Dance or the always-cagey Ellington would have EVER revealed.  So there's lots of juicy details about music -- both Tito's own as well as others'.  (One example: Tito's assessment of his recording with Eddie Palmieri: "It's shit. Eddie didn't show up.")  You get the idea: Tito doesn't pull any punches. 

All in all, it's good fun.  :tup 

Do they talk about Tito's greatest IMO album, Tambo?

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Do they dunk the tea on Tito's allegedly superhuman capacity for daily coke use up until the end of his life?

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Posted (edited)

29 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

Do they talk about Tito's greatest IMO album, Tambo?

I think it's only mentioned in passing.  

What's clear, however, is that Tito did NOT think highly of the executives at RCA.  They called Puente "Little Caesar" because there were so many arguments, and Puente wasn't shy about engaging in shouting matches.  The reason?  RCA marketing machine always pushed Perez Prado's recordings much more than Puente's, and he greatly resented them for it.   (It didn't help that Tito didn't think much of Prado's music.  To his ears, it was too watered-down, lacking in punch and Afro-Cuban authenticity.)

Another detail that I learned: It was actually Morris Levy who brought Tito to RCA.  Levy hadn't acquired Tico Records from George Goldner when Tito initially left Tico to go to RCA.  Levy was serving as an A&R man for RCA.  But before Puente's RCA contract was over, Levy left.  By the time that Tito's contract with RCA was over, Levy had acquired Tico from Goldner, who had built up massive gambling debts and had to sell the label to keep his kneecaps from getting busted.  So Levy invited Puente back to Tico after the RCA run -- since Levy was running the show at Tico by that point.  (That partially explains Puente's affection for Levy; he was always looking out for him, signing him to deals. Levy genuinely liked Tito's music.)

Another interesting fact: Levy's departure from RCA may have been the cause of the 14-year delay in the release of Tito's Revolving Bandstand LP with Buddy Morrow.  Without Levy there to advocate for Tito, the other executives weren't particularly interested in releasing the last album he made for RCA. So it sat on the shelf for a decade and a half.  Maybe Tito had burned too many bridges with his argumentative ways. Per Joe Conzo, no one knows for sure.

 

Edited by HutchFan

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Posted (edited)

27 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Do they dunk the tea on Tito's allegedly superhuman capacity for daily coke use up until the end of his life?

Conzo talks about coke usage, for sure. In fact, he mocks another biographer, who -- from his perspective -- paints Puente as far too much of a saintly figure.  So he doesn't shy away talking about Puente's drug use; then again, he doesn't really delve into the details either.  It's just part of the picture.

The same could be said about Conzo's discussion of Puente's womanizing, which was apparently considerable.  But Conzo doesn't go into the details. He just makes it clear that Puente enjoyed spending time with the ladies.  No names are named.  But he doesn't hold back on saying "It just how things were with Tito and women." 

 

Edited by HutchFan

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19 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

I think it's only mentioned in passing.  

What's clear, however, is that Tito did NOT think highly of the executives at RCA.  They called Puente "Little Caesar" because there were so many arguments, and Puente wasn't shy about engaging in shouting matches.  The reason?  RCA marketing machine always pushed Perez Prado's recordings much more than Puente's, and he greatly resented them for it.   (It didn't help that Tito didn't think much of Prado's music.  To his ears, it was too watered-down, lacking in punch and Afro-Cuban authenticity.)

Another detail that I learned: It was actually Morris Levy who brought Tito to RCA.  Levy hadn't acquired Tico Records from George Goldner when Tito initially left Tico to go to RCA.  Levy was serving as an A&R man for RCA.  But before Puente's RCA contract was over, Levy left.  By the time that Tito's contract with RCA was over, Levy had acquired Tico from Goldner, who had built up massive gambling debts and had to sell the label to keep his kneecaps from getting busted.  So Levy invited Puente back to Tico after the RCA run -- since Levy was running the show at Tico by that point.  (That partially explains Puente's affection for Levy; he was always looking out for him, signing him to deals. Levy genuinely liked Tito's music.)

Another interesting fact: Levy's departure from RCA may have been the cause of the 14-year delay in the release of Tito's Revolving Bandstand LP with Buddy Morrow.  Without Levy there to advocate for Tito, the other executives weren't particularly interested in releasing the last album he made for RCA. So it sat on the shelf for a decade and a half.  Maybe Tito had burned too many bridges with his argumentative ways. Per Joe Conzo, no one knows for sure.

I would have thought he would have placed more emphasis on this album.  Puente wrote 11 of the 12 tunes.  In addition, it was produced by the great Marty Gold, who recorded a number of wonderful space-age bachelor pad albums for RCA.  Finally, while Puente recorded a number of tunes in the exotica mode, notably "Mambo Buda," "Lotus Land," and "Elegua Chango," this was the one full-on exotica album he recorded.  

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5 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

I would have thought he would have placed more emphasis on this album.  Puente wrote 11 of the 12 tunes.  In addition, it was produced by the great Marty Gold, who recorded a number of wonderful space-age bachelor pad albums for RCA.  Finally, while Puente recorded a number of tunes in the exotica mode, notably "Mambo Buda," "Lotus Land," and "Elegua Chango," this was the one full-on exotica album he recorded.  

Nope.  

It's probably just a reflection of the fact that Tito recorded incredibly prolifically -- from the beginning of his career to the end.  Given the scope of the book, Conzo couldn't discuss them all.  Not possible without writing a very, very long book.  (And it's already really thick!) 

Conzo spends a bit of time on Cuban Carnaval -- since it was Tito's first for RCA -- and Dance Mania -- since it was Tito's best-seller for RCA.  The others are just mentioned in passing, IIRC.

 

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Ok, if there's honesty about the coke, then I will entertain a read of the book.

I forget the exact amount, but it was allegedly at or over a gram a day, every day. Not all THAT much for a pro, but over a lifetime...I can only envy his constitution!

Probably the most "interesting" part of it for me will be the Morris Levy stuff. One of the all-time uber-thugs of the music business, at least that I've learned about. When Charles Mingus made his claim that "gangsters run jazz", it was certainly Levy to whom he was referring.

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3 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

Nope.  

It's probably just a reflection of the fact that Tito recorded incredibly prolifically -- from the beginning of his career to the end.  Given the scope of the book, Conzo couldn't discuss them all.  Not possible without writing a very, very long book.  (And it's already really thick!) 

Conzo spends a bit of time on Cuban Carnaval -- since it was Tito's first for RCA -- and Dance Mania -- since it was Tito's best-seller for RCA.  The others are just mentioned in passing, IIRC.

If the author is that cursory in his coverage of Tito's RCA albums, I probably won't read it anytime soon.  

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11 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Ok, if there's honesty about the coke, then I will entertain a read of the book.

I forget the exact amount, but it was allegedly at or over a gram a day, every day. Not all THAT much for a pro, but over a lifetime...I can only envy his constitution!

Probably the most "interesting" part of it for me will be the Morris Levy stuff. One of the all-time uber-thugs of the music business, at least that I've learned about. When Charles Mingus made his claim that "gangsters run jazz", it was certainly Levy to whom he was referring.

I think you'd enjoy it.

But do note: Levy's mob connections -- and even Tito's mob connections (which some have whispered about, due to his tightness with Levy) -- are one thing that Conzo is tight-lipped about.  Apparently, Tito never talked about his dealings with Levy with others.  When his inner circle would ask questions about Levy, Tito would glare and say nothing.  The implication: Don't ASK!  

So there's not as much there about Levy as I'd hoped there might be.  I guess mobsters have long memories, and Conzo wasn't as willing as Tommy James to talk about Levy's nasty/criminal side.  Plus, Tito's relationship with Levy was actually very good.  So Conzo was either unwilling to dish or unable to dish because Tito never told him anything.

 

19 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

If the author is that cursory in his coverage of Tito's RCA albums, I probably won't read it anytime soon.  

Fair enough. 

 

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6 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

I think you'd enjoy it.

But do note: Levy's mob connections -- and even Tito's mob connections (which some have whispered about, due to his tightness with Levy) -- are one thing that Conzo is tight-lipped about.  Apparently, Tito never talked about his dealings with Levy with others.  When his inner circle would ask questions about Levy, Tito would glare and say nothing.  The implication: Don't ASK!  

So there's not as much there about Levy as I'd hoped there might be.  I guess mobsters have long memories, and Conzo wasn't as willing as Tommy James to talk about Levy's nasty/criminal side.  Plus, Tito's relationship with Levy was actually very good.  So Conzo was either unwilling to dish or unable to dish because Tito never told him anything.

No telling how deep one was with the other. Being a great musician and being mobbed up are hardly mutually exclusive realities...

 

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5 minutes ago, JSngry said:

No telling how deep one was with the other. Being a great musician and being mobbed up are hardly mutually exclusive realities...

No doubt.

Speaking of artists with mob connections: Frank Sinatra apparently wanted to make a record with Tito.

Conzo writes that Sinatra was chasing Tito, trying to make it happen -- but Tito played hard to get and it never happened. 

Hard to imagine those two worlds colliding. 

 

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38 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

Fair enough. 

Then again, maybe I'm overreacting.  

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