Tito Puente Jr., son of legendary Latin musician Tito "El Rey" Puente, continues to forge forward down a path his late father laid for many to follow. Comparisons are unfair, as both men are individually recognizable in sound and way different in looks.
While the father's instantly soul-caressing full set of white hair is known the world over, Jr.'s affinity for tattoos would have you thinking he's on tour with the latest metal or hard-rock outfit to hit town.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Jr. is a charanguero and mambo aficionado like no other who'll surely get even the most reluctant, stiff-lipped wallflower shaking it like it owes money.
February 29 happens every four years, and dancing the night away to his rhythms is as righteous a celebratory ritual as you can have. We had a chance to ask him a couple of questions about his tats, his dad, and, of course, music. Here's how it went down:
New Times:First off, a little background on you and how you came to be a musician.
Tito Puente Jr.: Growing up in New York City, I was influenced by many different genres of music. I honed in on Latin music in my youth, with of course my father's music being the greatest influence. The trap kit drum set was my first love and, of course, rock drummers like Phil Collins, Tommy Lee, Neil Peart, etc...
Have you found yourself carving harder at being a musician based on your father's worldwide acclaim, or have you found that his fans have embraced you?
It's a double-edged sword in my case. I have been compared to him and his playing many times. I could never replace the icon who was Tito Puente nor his playing. I only can bring to the table who I am, which is his spirit. I also have been embraced by his fans worldwide as I have traveled and have walked his path through this earth. The love still remains for him, and I do embrace that at my concerts always.
Given your background (and what a pedigree it is!), what are your attitudes/techniques for developing and expanding the Latin sound?
Spending a lot of time with creative musicians has been a driving force in my music and sound. Hanging around musicians, I think in their terms, which everything is music.
This is especially true for percussion players, who have a "percussive" vibe. Hitting tables and chairs in rhythm in nonmusical settings, those are the moments I embrace.
You seem to be pretty keen on the NY Ink tattoo artists. Do you get any work done in Florida, or is Tommy Montoya your go-to guy?
Tommy is excellent and made an incredible tattoo come to life, but there are my main tattoo guys here in South Florida. My man Lou at Paradise Tattoo in the Keys is my main guy. Plus I get work from Tattoos by Lou as well. I did, however, have a blast doing NY Ink with Ami and Tommy.
What's in the works right now? Any recordings/gigs to be on the lookout for?
Check out my website, gotmambo.com, for all my tour dates. I got some great foreign places we will be touring in this year. A new album is in the works and should be completed by the summer.
What are your top five favorite songs and by who?
That's hard to answer since my radio has all types of music. I'll play it safe and say "Oye Como Va" by Tito Puente is my all-time favorite song, ever!
Tito Puente Jr. on Wednesday, February 29, at 7 p.m. at the Boca Raton Bridge Hotel, 999 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $22 to $47. Call 561-886-4570, or visit liveatthebridge.com.