Essential Songs of Tito Puente

A Selection of Latin Jazz, Mambo and Cha-Cha Hits

The late, great Tito Puente has earned the moniker
The late, great Tito Puente has earned the moniker "The King of Latin Music." A Latin jazz and mambo pioneer, and a master of the timbales, Tito came from a Puerto Rican family but grew up in New York. His career spans over half a century.

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The impact that Tito Puente had on Latin music was enormous. Thanks to his always innovative repertoire, this talented musician and composer from New York became one of the leading names of genres and styles such as Mambo, Cha-Cha, Latin Jazz and Salsa music. From the amazing vibes of "Cuban Fantasy" to the iconic hit "Oye Como Va," the following are some of the most essential songs ever recorded by Tito Puente. Let's take a look.

"Cuban Fantasy"

This is the last track featured on the 1956 album Cuban Carnival. Originally written by Ray Bryant, this short yet very pleasant Latin Jazz song was arranged by Tito Puente. "Cuban Fantasy" offers a nice sample of the amazing ability that Tito Puente had in front of the vibes.

"Ran Kan Kan"

To this date, "Ran Kan Kan" remains the best-selling track recorded by Tito Puente. This vibrant single features strong brass sessions and a solid performance by Tito Puente playing his legendary timbales. The song was included in the soundtrack of the movie The Mambo Kings. "Ran kan Kan" is an explosion from beginning to end.

"Take Five"

If you are into Jazz, you probably know this famous piece written by Paul Desmond, which became a worldwide hit with the recording of the legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet. Tito Puente, who was significantly influenced by the Big Band and Jazz music of his time, payed tribute to this classic with a Latin version that ended up being one of his most popular hits.

"Agua Limpia Todo"

From the 1958 best-selling album Dance Mania, "Agua Limpia Todo" is one of the most popular tunes ever recorded by the legendary Rey de los Timbales. With the unique vocals of Santitos Colon and the support of talented musicians like Ray Barreto and Jimmy Frisaura, Tito Puente produced an amazing sound where Mambo was already touching the boundaries of Salsa music. This is a fantastic track for hitting the dance floor.

"Mi Chiquita Quiere Bembe"

One of the rhythms that Tito Puente played extensively throughout his prolific career was Cha-Cha. "Mi Chiquita Quiere Bembe," another of the songs that transformed Dance Mania into one of the most popular albums ever released by Tito Puente, is one of the most famous Cha-Cha pieces released by Tito Puente. Look out for the ending jamming session (Bembe) on this song featuring the congas of Ray Barreto.

"Que Sera (What Is It?)"

From the album Cuban Carnival, this is another song that falls into the Cha-Cha realm. "Que Sera (What Is It?)" features nice vocals, amazing brass sessions and a fantastic flute you can hear throughout the whole sound. A wonderful track from beginning to end.

"Malibu Beat"

If you are into Big Band music or Jazz, Tito Puente's 1957 album Night Beat is a work I highly recommend to you. One of my favorite tracks on this album is "Malibu Beat," which exemplifies in a good way the combination of the American and Latin music traditions that Tito Puente developed with this production.

"Oye Mi Guaguanco"

The music of Tito Puente made a significant contribution to the development of Salsa. His original Mambo and Guaguanco tracks are usually placed today within the hard style of Salsa (Salsa dura). "Oye Mi Guaguanco," one of the finest tunes included in the popular album Cuban Carnival, is one of those tracks. Besides the percussion and the catchy chorus, the sound of the trumpets and saxophones in this track is plain fantastic.

"Hong Kong Mambo"

As far as Latin Jazz goes, "Hong Kong Mambo" is probably the most famous song ever recorded by Tito Puente. If you are looking for a song where you can fully appreciate the ability that Tito Puente had playing the vibes, this is the track for you. The melody is enhanced by the nice contrast between the sweet notes of the vibes and the strong sound of the trumpets. Besides that, "Hong Kong Mambo" has an 'Asian flavor' to it that is just so cool.

"Oye Como Va"

This is probably the most famous song ever created by Tito Puente. Originally written by Tito Puente in 1963, "Oye Como Va" was released that year with the album El Rey Bravo. Although this song enjoyed lots of popularity from the moment it hit the market, the version that Carlos Santana recorded in 1970 transformed this single into one of the top Latin songs of all time. NPR included this tune into its top 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century.