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Voces: Tito Puente: The King Of Latin Music

Airs Monday, September 20, 2010 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

The late mambo and Latin jazz legend Tito Puente

Credit: 1998 A. Areizaga,

Above: The late mambo and Latin jazz legend Tito Puente

The only Latino anthology series on television returns with an eclectic line-up of documentaries celebrating the accomplishments of Latinos and Latinas across the Americas. "VOCES" captures the diversity of voices within the Latino community with an aim of stirring the interest and imagination of all viewers, regardless of their background. This season, eight films cover a wide range of subjects, including biographies of sports and music legends and community activists.

In this documentary, Bill Cosby, Marc Anthony, Geraldo Rivera, Jimmy Smits, Paquito D'Rivera and other family, friends and colleagues pay homage to the late mambo and Latin jazz legend Tito Puente. Archival footage, interviews and excerpts from one of Puente's last concerts piece together the life of the popular bandleader, percussionist and composer.

Preview: Tito Puente: The King Of Latin Music

Of all the musicians who have contributed to the popularity of Latin music, none is more recognized than the man known simply as The King, Tito Puente. His family, friends and colleagues all pay homage including Bill Cosby, Marc Anthony, Armand Assante, Geraldo Rivera, Jimmy Smits, Paquito DRivera and many more. The life of this influential bandleader, percussionist and composer and one of the most charismatic performers of all time is recalled through archival footage and interviews as well as excerpts from one of his last concerts.

Tito Puente Performance "Oye Como Va"

By virtue of his warm, flamboyant stage manner, longevity, constant touring, and appearances in the mass media, Tito Puente is probably the most beloved symbol of Latin jazz. But more than that, Puente managed to keep his music remarkably fresh over the decades; as a timbales virtuoso, he combined mastery over every rhythmic nuance with old-fashioned showmanship -- watching his eyes bug out when taking a dynamic solo was one of the great treats for Latin jazz fans. A trained musician, he was also a fine, lyrical vibraphonist, a gifted arranger, and played piano, congas, bongos, and saxophone. His appeal continues to cut across all ages and ethnic groups, helped no doubt by Santana's best-selling cover versions of "Oye Como Va" and "Para Los Rumberos" in 1970-1971, and cameo appearances on "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s and the film "The Mambo Kings" in 1992. His brand of classic salsa is generally free of dark undercurrents, radiating a joyous, compulsively danceable party atmosphere.

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