An Interview with Tito Puente Jr.
Musician Tito Puente Jr. had never been to Skaneateles before coming to perform at the July 28 SKARTS Gala. Standing on the back lawn of Stella Maris Retreat Center and looking over the lake, Puente, 41, said, “Man, this is beautiful! I love this area of New York. This is the real New York here. New York is paradise.”
The son of music icon Tito Puente, the “King of Latin Jazz,” Puente Jr., who lives in south Florida, grew up in New York City, His sister graduated from Syracuse University, and Puente himself attended Onondaga Community College for two semesters before pursuing his musical aspirations.
“I did hear about Skaneateles, but I’d never been here,” he said. “I was too busy doing other things at college!” he said.
But college wasn’t for him, he decided. “My father told me, ‘You can go back to school, go get a job or get a hit record like me, man,’” Puente said. So his father gave him an old car and a couple hundred dollars, and the son headed to south Florida.
There, which was right before the “Latin explosion,” he said, he got into the Latin music scene and was embraced by musicians such as Gloria Estefan. Puente Jr.’s first hit record was Latin pop, but then he started to play more of his father’s style of music, which is a mix of Latin, jazz and big band swing.
“I take elements of my father’s music and bring it to the youth of today with my own style,” he said. “You will dance; you will feel it.”
Puente and his wife arrived in Skaneateles Friday night, July 27, after flying from a week’s family vacation in New York City (with his five children) to Florida and then to Syracuse. They stayed at Mirbeau. “We went right for the spa and started decompressing,” he said. “This is a vacation from our vacation.”
Puente said he has traveled the world but New York — state as well as and city — is home. But he remains amazed at how music transcends all language or cultural barriers. He recently was requested to play in China and Indonesia; and he marveled at the reception he received in Israel, where he said Hassidic Jews were singing along to his songs.
For more information on Tito Puente Jr., visit his official website at gotmambo.com, his Facebook page at Facebook.com/Titopuentejr, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/titopuentejr.