Cuban conductor and trumpet player Ernesto ‘Tito’ Puentes died on Thursday morning in Montpellier, southern France, where he lived.
“The most Parisian of the Cubans has gone to join other salseros for an eternal descarga (jam session)”, his manager Jean-Louis Perrier said.
‘Tito’ was born on 7 November,1928, in Havana where he started playing the trumpet with his two uncles.
He became famous in the 40’s before building an international reputation with more than 200 albums released in fifty years.
“When I played jazz, my compatriots used to tell me that I wasn’t Cuban, but jazzman. Today one call me salsero – and I prefer the term Afro-Cuban music than salsa that seems inappropriate to me especially because it was invented by Americans […],” he said.
“Me, I’m more a musician. I try to integrate European and African influences in my music. My music is plural.”
Cuba in the 50’s
Tito Puentes left Cuba in the 1950’s for a one year tour of Europe, in the Middle-East and in Lebanon. When the manager left his musicians distressed without any cash at the end of the tour, he went to live in France.
In the 1970’s, he played with French singers Sylvie Vartan, Michel Delpech, Claude François, Nino Ferrer, Eddy Mitchell or Joe Dassin.
Conductor and arranger for Manu Dibango
He was also conductor and arranger for a big band playing with Cameroonese musician Manu Dibango.
In 1995, he created his own big bang made up of 20 musicians from Cuba, Venezuela or Colombia.
For his last album Gracias (2012) he had invited Manu Dibango and Ibrahim Maalouf.
Tito and his big bang played for the last time in July 2015 at the Tempo Latino festival in Vic-Fezensac in southwestern France.
Isabelle Martinetti, http://en.rfi.fr
June 8, 2017