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Remembering Ernesto “Tito” Puentes, the jazz man

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Tito Puentes, Francia, cubano, jazz

HAVANA, Cuba.- On a day like today, six years ago, the town of Montpellier, in the southeast of France, saw the trumpeter, producer, arranger and conductor Ernesto Puentes, known as Tito Puentes, close its eyes forever. Initiated into the exuberant Havana music scene of the 1940s, he recorded more than two hundred albums throughout his career.

In the 1950s, the young trumpeter embarked on a year-long tour of Europe, the Middle East, and Lebanon. When the tour organizer separated from the project, leaving the musicians unprotected, Tito Puentes decided to settle in France, where he lived for sixty years, considering it his adopted country.

Charismatic and creative, he defined himself as an interpreter of afrocuban Jazz, avoiding the description of “salsa singer” that they tried to hang on him due to the deliciousness of his musical arrangements. Like other great jazz players of his time, his work focused on the fusion of diverse genres and styles, which made him a complete performer, capable of moving across a wide spectrum of sounds.

“When I played jazz, my compatriots said that I was no longer Cuban, but a ‘jazzman’. Now they know me as salsa. But I prefer the term Afro-Cuban instead of salsa, which is incorrect and which, above all, was invented in the United States. I call myself simply a musician. I try to integrate European and African influences into my music. My music has multiple facets”, he stated on one occasion.

Throughout his career, Puentes accompanied other renowned musicians and singers such as Michel Delpech, Sylvie Vartan, Claude François, Nino Ferrer, Joe Dassin and Eddy Mitchell. He made his last tour in 2012, all over France, to present his album Thank you. His last concert was in July 2015, as a guest at the “Tempo Latino” festival in Vic-Fezensac, in the south of France.

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