Watching Celia Cruz perform leaves no doubt that this is a woman in her natural element. Weren’t rumba and mambo made for Cruz to sing? To realize how extraordinary Celia Cruz was, you need to take a step back and think about how few women there are in salsa – bet you only need one hand to count them!
Cruz was the first female salsa mega-star. To this day she remains the most important and influential woman of not just salsa, but of Afro-Cuban music in general.
Celia Cruz – Early Days:
Celia Cruz was born Ursula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso in Havana. She was the second of 4 children, although there were 14 other children in the household. She started singing at an early age, winning musical contest and small prizes. She often told the story about her first pair of shoes, purchased for her by a tourist for whom she sang.
La Sonora Matancera:
Her big break came when she became the lead vocalist for Sonora Matancera, the prominent tropical band of its day. She was not a hit, but the band’s leader, Rogelio Martinez, remained firm in his belief in Cruz, even after record executives complained that a woman singing that style of music was not going to sell.
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Over time, the Cruz and the subsequent CD became a big success and she toured with the band through the 1950s.
Cruz Emigrates to the U.S. :
In 1959, Sonora Matancera, along with Cruz, went on tour to Mexico. Castro was now in power following the Cuban revolution and the musicians, rather than returning to Havana, went to the U.S. Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 1961 and, the following year, she married Pedro Knight who a trumpeter with the band.
In 1965, both Cruz and Knight left the band to branch out on their own. Since Cruz’ solo career was blossoming while Knight’s was languishing, he stopped performing to become her manager.
The Fania Years:
In 1966, Cruz and Tito Puente began performing together for Tico records, recording eight albums for the label. A few years later, Cruz performed inHommy, the Hispanic version of the Who’s rock opera Tommy. Her fame was starting to spread in the musical community and it was during this time that she signed with Fania, a new label that was destined to become the most famous salsa label of all time.
A Slow Decade for Cruz:
During the 1980s, the public’s appetite for salsa started to die down, but Cruz kept busy with tours of Latin America, television appearances and some cameo roles in cinema. In 1987 she received her own star on Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame”, just one of the many cities worldwide that boasts a star with Celia Cruz’ name on it.
The 1990s found Cruz in her late 60s and 70s. Rather than starting to wind down her career, it seems that this was the decade that the ever energetic Cruz reaped some of the most satisfying rewards of a brilliant musical life.
These awards included a lifetime achievement awards from both the Smithsonian and the Hispanic Heritage Organization, a street named after her in Miami’s Calle Ocho district as well as the distinction of San Francisco declaring October 25th, 1997 as Celia Cruz Day. She went to the White House and received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.
Celia Cruz was full of life and music, achieving far more than she ever dreamed of as a young girl in Santos Suarez. Despite all the fame and accolades, she remained warm, friendly and down-to-earth.
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In fact, the only big dream she was not able to achieve was a return to her native Cuba.
Early Works (Remastered)
- Cuba Y Puerto Rico Son (1966,1993) with Willie Colon
- Serenata Guajira (1968,2000)
- Son con Guaguanco (1966,2000)
Fania Label (Remastered)
- Celia and Johnny (1974,2006) with Johnny Pachecho
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- Celia & Willie (1981, 2007) with Willie Colon
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- Ritmo En El Corazon(1988, 2007) with Ray Baretto
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- CELIA CRUZ/CELIA IN THE HOUSE: The Ultimate Classic Hits Remix Collection
- Female Salsa Singers – Who Are The New Women in Salsa?
- Los Lobos – Profile of Mexican Rock Legend Los Lobos
- Mana – Profile & Biography of Mexican Rocker Band Mana
- Taio Cruz Interview – Interview with Taio Cruz
APRIL 20, 1923 – MAY 31, 2000
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Elvis may have been known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” but to fans of Latin music icon, Tito Puente will always be “The King.”
Puente was responsible for making timbales a respectable solo instrument in Latin dance music and Latin jazz. He was also an accomplished player of the vibraphone, alto sax, bass, piano and drums, as well as an arranger and band leader.
As an accomplished dancer himself, Puente always counted dancers as among his most loyal devotees. His Dancemania album has sold over half a million copies since 1957, and four of his over 100 album releases have won Grammy Awards.
Recent milestones for this legend included an appearance in the 1992 film The Mambo Kings, having a star installed on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and the opening of his own restaurant in City Island, in New York. On November 19, 1996 Puente’s contribution to American music was honored with a U.S. Postal Service stamp cancellation mark. The following year, Tito received the National Endowment Award from President Clinton. Puente’s craving for innovation and perfection helped lead to the design of of LP’s Tito Puente Model Timbales.
Though he is no longer physically with us, Tito Puente will live forever in the hearts of music fans the world over.
Tito Puente – Greatest Hits
MP3 320 kbps CBR 65:41 min 157 MB
Jazz, Latin Jazz Fania Records 19 April 2011
Tito Puente released over 150 albums in his stellar career. He and his orchestra were all about the dancers. He was also a musicians’ musician in a time when a great band could actually thrive without radio play. The term ”Greatest Hits” usually applies to the most commercial songs in a bands repertoire, in Tito’s case let’s just say they are a collection of some of his most extraordinary work. Twenty remastered tracks strong, this compilation sizzles from the opening round with classics such as ”Oye Como Va,” ”Para Los Rumberos” and many more. Covering more than one label and hosting a variety of great vocalists, Tito straddles the Mambo era and Jazz with equal ease. The album closes with the dancers favorite ”Ran Kan Kan” to leave the dancers and also listeners chanting for just ”one more.” Never-before released! Not be missed!
01 Oye Como Va Puente 4:33
02 Para Los Rumberos Puente 4:06
03 Picadillo Puente 3:09
04 Mambo Diablo Puente 5:07
05 El Agitador Puente 2:43
06 Juventud del Presente Mendez 2:50
07 Vaya Puente Puente 2:11
08 Ascot Gavotte Lerner, Loewe 3:43
09 On the Street Where You Live Lerner, Loewe 3:12
10 Mirame Mas Gutierrez 3:37
11 Como Esta Miguel Cabrera 2:41
12 Te Desafio Yanes 3:14
13 Desafinado Jobim, Mendonca 3:01
14 Kwa Kwa Averhoff 2:27
15 Crystal Blue Persuasion 3:40
16 New Guaguanco DeLaLastra 3:14
17 Tus Ojos Delgado 3:21
18 Azukiki Puente 2:48
19 110th St. and 5th Ave. Morales 2:45
20 Ran Kan Kan Puente 3:09
He has sold over 11 million albums worldwide, making him one of the most influential artists of his time and a true ambassador of Latin music and culture.
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He has been awarded countless Standard gold and platinum certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The list of Grammy accolades began with a 1998 Grammy for Best Latin/Tropical Performance for “Contra La Corriente,” followed with a 1999 Grammy for Song of the Year for “Dimelo.”
Driven in part by the crossover success of his smash single “I Need to Know (Dimelo),” “Marc Anthony,” his English language debut album, helped usher in 1999’s Latin pop explosion, and went on to achieve triple platinum status in the U.S. And, in 2005 Marc Anthony went home double fisted with a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album of the Year for “Amar Sin Mentiras” and another Grammy for Best Tropical Album of the Year for “Valio la Pena.” He has won a total of 18 “Premio lo Nuestro” Awards throughout his career, the most won by any artist. His influence was significantly recognized when he was included in the Top 10 List of influential New Yorkers compiled by New York Magazine.
Marc has also established a highly credible acting résumé and may be seen in Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing Out the Dead” (1999); opposite Selma Hayak in the Showtime original film, “In the Time of the Butterflies” (2001); and appears with Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken in director Tony Scott’s “Man On Fire” (2004). He also appeared in the 1997 Paul Simon musical, “The Capeman.” Marc Anthony starred as the Puerto Rican salsa pioneer Héctor Lavoe, with Jennifer Lopez as Puchi, in the biopic, “El Cantante,” directed by Leon Ichaso. The Dolphins minority owner, was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington D.C. in September 2009.
May 2010 marks the release of his new production titled “Iconos” (Icons), an all ballad Spanish album produced by Marc Anthony and Julio Reyes including eight titles of his favorite balladeers and two original songs both written by Julio Reyes and Marc Anthony.
These memorable songs turned into classics by artists such as: Juan Gabriel, José Luis Perales, José José, Roberto Carlos and La Mafia are born again, now in the incomparable emotion and unique style of Marc Anthony.
An exciting and high-powered virtuoso pianist, Michel Camilo came from a very musical family (with all nine of his uncles being musicians). Originally playing accordion, he switched to piano when he was 16. After moving to New York in 1979, his song “Why Not?” became a hit for the Manhattan Transfer and caught on as a standard, and “Caribe” entered the repertoire of Dizzy Gillespie. Camilo, who worked with Paquito D’Rivera’s band for three years
An exciting and high-powered virtuoso pianist, Michel Camilo came from a very musical family (with all nine of his uncles being musicians). Originally playing accordion, he switched to piano when he was 16. After moving to New York in 1979, his song “Why Not?” became a hit for the Manhattan Transfer and caught on as a standard, and “Caribe” entered the repertoire of Dizzy Gillespie. Camilo, who worked with Paquito D’Rivera’s band for three years (cutting an album with “Why Not?” as the title cut), recorded for Electric Bird (sessions reissued by Evidence) and Columbia, and worked as a leader beginning in the mid-’80s
This great interview with Michel Camilo was conducted by Tomas Peña last year and has some fascinating insight into the man and his music. Originally published on Jazz.com, this two-part interview makes a wonderful addition to the Latin Jazz Conversations series. Enjoy!
In this next installment, I’m picking up where I left off in Part 1 of my interview with pianist extraordinaire, Michel Camilo. Here he speaks passionately about the making of Spirit of the Moment (which has been going strong since 2008). In addition, he elaborates on his attraction to the number 3, his deep abiding respect for his band mates and the trials and tribulations of life on the road. Lastly, he makes a very telling observation about the current state of jazz and emphasizes the importance of documenting the era for posterity.
TOMAS PEÑA: Let’s begin with Part 1 (of Spirit of the Moment) – “Body.”
MICHEL CAMILO: It’s more intense and robust. All of the tunes in the first part are originals because I wanted to give the album a personal touch and show what I am about, not just as a player but also as a composer.
MC: There are three ballads in the album as well: “My Secret Place,” “A Place in Time” and “Liquid Crystal,” though the latter is a little more esoteric because it has a groove under it. Also, all the titles have three words. For me the album is like a book that is divided into three chapters with four parts that tell a story. It’s no coincidence that the album starts out in C Major and ends in C Minor. The album was constructed organically.
TP: Part 2 – “Mind” – pays tribute to four musical idols.
MC: It’s artists that I grew up listening to and that I admired as players, composers and creators. It’s my take on their music.
TP: That would be Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Wayne Shorter. As idols go, it doesn’t get much better!
MC: (Laughs) it’s about what they gave me as a jazz musician. My formation, how they helped me to get where I am today harmonically and melodically speaking, how they took chances with their careers, how they were able to shift and keep on going and how they were able to stay current through every period of their lives.
TP: Miles and Coltrane were harshly criticized for keeping up with the times.
MC: That’s what I’m talking about. They were attacked but that’s part of being a jazz musician. When there is no risk involved it gets very boring. It’s the most important thing in jazz. I teach master classes all over the world and I tell my students that we will change from day to day. You just have to notice the changes and allow the music to change with you. The more we travel and encounter new places and cultures, the more that ideas come to you. You have to be open to change. If you don’t change you are in a comfortable place that can be the ultimate killer for your creative juices. That’s why you see me doing so many different projects and jumping fences (Laughs).
TP: And lastly Part 3 – “Soul.”
MC: The third part goes to a different place, especially the last take on “Solar.” It’s like a buildup to an abstract place and yet, there is a lot of power. I have a friend who directs films and he always says that a good movie dies in the last third and the plot has to thicken in order to surprise the audience. That’s what I try to do, surprise the listener and take it to a place where you never think we would go. Towards the end of “Solar” I just say to the trio, let’s listen to each other and create a chart. Often times, I don’t like playing the melody so I just hint at it.
TP: Which brings to mind your clever rendition of Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va.”
MC: We do it with John Coltrane’s “Giants Steps” as well.
TP: At break neck speed.
MC: That’s true. The challenge there was to a very short rendition. At our live concerts we do a standard version of “Giant Steps.” The idea was to do the tune in two minutes and get in and get out. We have played these tunes so much that now we are able to create with total freedom. In other words not reading a part or even putting a chart in front of anyone, just hearing each other. That’s why I cal it “Explorations.”
TP: “Solar” is one of my favorite tunes of all time.
MC: We did three takes and it was really difficult to pick the version we wanted to use. All of them were interesting. At one point I was considering including all three versions, but that would have ruined the architecture of the recording. In the end we went with the first take because it was the freshest of the bunch. I usually go with the first take. In this case, it’s closer to the concept of the album.
TP: You practically live on the road. How do you maintain your energy level and stay so passionate about the music?
MC: It’s difficult but you have to apply discipline. You may want to hang out but you might not be able to because you have to do a concert the next day. You can’t do that to your audience, you can’t get wasted. You have to be in shape and that means going to bed early, eating well and listening to music. Charles and Dafnis are always hooked up to their MP3 players.
TP: What kind of music suits your fancy when you are not performing?
MC: I listen to jazz and classical music, but Charles and Dafnis are really intense. They listen to everything in jazz and are constantly commenting on things. That’s why they are such great musicians.
TP: The last time I spoke with Dafnis he was exploring Indian rhythms (from India).
MC: I think he puts more of those rhythms into practice with his band. With my band he and Charles listen to a lot of straight-ahead jazz and Latin jazz. They are always analyzing, that’s what gets their creative juices flowing. Also, I try to surprise the hell out of them. When I go to sound checks I use different scales and chords in the same material that we have been playing. It keeps them wondering what I’m going to do next.
TP: Tell me about your band mates, Charles Flores and Dafnis Prieto and explain what each of them brings to the table.
MC: Charles is very committed to his music. He’s always practicing and listening to new music. He’s also someone who is really instrumental in my new version of the trio. His first recording with me was Live at the Blue Note and you could tell early on that he was totally committed to me and my music. It was a real challenge for him because he came to the trio after bassist, Anthony Jackson, who is one of the geniuses. At the time I wanted to change the sound of the trio and go with an acoustic bass. Charles is an electric bass player but I told him that in my trio he was going to play the acoustic bass. I asked him if he could handle it because there is a lot of intensity and his answer was, “I will work for it” and he did. He developed an incredible touch, sound and pitch. This is the first time that I have used the Arco bass and the audience loves it. It expands the possibilities of the jazz trio. Also, the fact that we share Caribbean roots is something that we don’t talk about but something that we draw on as well.
I have been a supporter of Dafnis from the beginning of his career. In fact, I wrote the liner-notes for his first recording. I could see right off that he was a hungry musician; he was very committed and a force to be reckoned with in the jazz world. He has never disappointed me. On the contrary, he continues to surprise me and he keeps on growing as we grow together. I call it a journey of self-discovery. Some of our best concerts are precisely when we are very tired.
TP: Would that have something to do with the fact that your defenses are down?
MC: Exactly. I guess you could call it a second wind.
TP: You guys put your heart and soul into each and every performance. You must be wiped out after a concert. What’s your formula for unwinding and replenishing your energy?
MC: Yes, after that we need a nap and lots of food. Dafnis is always hungry! The whole thing comes down to supporting one another. When one of us is down the other gives him moral support. You know, being on the road is hard but all of those feelings and nuances go into the music. After all, the music is charged with all of our inner feelings and life experiences.
TP: Tell me about your relationship with the irrepressible concert promoter, George Wein.
MC: Early in my career he heard me perform at the Blue Note and he asked if I had ever made a recording in the U.S. I told him that I had recorded two albums for a Japanese label and he said, “Next week you are in the studio.” He paid for the recording session, took the tape to Sony Records, and said to them, “You should try this guy out.” And the rest is history.
TP: I saw you perform with Paquito D’ Rivera when you first arrived in New York. Also, I distinctly recall you sitting in for Jorge Dalto on a number of occasions when he took ill.
TP: What’s your take on the current state of jazz?
MC: People don’t realize that we are living in a golden era of jazz. Musicians of my generation are touring and playing constantly. The last time we played in Tokyo we played to a crowd of 5000 people and that’s not the only concert where we get audiences that size. We did a concert in Germany last year for German television. Things like that are happening all the time. At some point somebody had to do the research and document the era.
TP: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.
Michel Camilo’s first official live DVD/CD box set features an amazing big band set of his original music. The album – Caribe – (Calle 54 Records/Sony Music) was released on September 15th in Madrid, Spain. This Live concert was filmed by Spanish Oscar winner director Fernando Trueba at the Altos de Chavón Amphitheater in the Dominican Republic.
For additional information on Camilo and his music visit his website.