[JPL] Luis Kant: Former Ella & Tjader sideman RIP

Arturo arturo893 at qwest.net
Mon Apr 24 13:50:20 EDT 2006

Master percussionist/musician/dancer Luis Kant passed away in Las
Vegas on April 10, 2006.  Luis's credits include Myrta Silva, Celia Cruz,
Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Rene Bloch, Johnny Martinez,
Ella Fitgerald, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra,
Sarah Vaughan, etc. He recently discovered he is a great, great, great
grandnephew of German philosopher Emmanuel Kant & Luis felt his highest
honor was daughter Renee Kant, grandchildren Issa & Paris Sida-Kant,
& great grandchild Hazel Sida-Kant.

The following is a 1998 article by Silvio Alava on Luis's brilliant life.

Arturo Gómez
Latin Beat Magazine contributor

Where are they now - Luis 'Puntilla' Kant,
Luis 'Puntilla' Kant, Panamenian musician

Latin Beat Magazine,  March, 1998  by Silvio H. Alava

"The Golden Era" of Latin music in New York began around the '30s
and gained momentum as an art form right up until the present. When
Tito Puente, Machito, ad Tito Rodríguez were sidemen working with
other bands, a Panamanian by the name of Luis Kant,
aka "Puntillita," arrived in New York City to begin his career. The
nickname was given to him by the noted New York promoter Federico
Pagani. A native of the barrio Chorrillo, which was also the home of
the pugilist Roberto Duran and Ruben Blades, Sr. (the father of
Ruben Blades), Kant became interested in singing at the age of
twelve. With his good friend Luis Muñoz on piano, he began honing
his singing skills and learned the repertoire of many of the local
and visiting singers of the late '30s and early '40s. Self taught on
maracas, he later learned to play them from Ernesto Chapuseau, of
the famous merengue duo Damiron y Chapuseau. He learned to play
clave from Cuban musicians who arrived in Panama to work. The local
hotels and nightclubs were popular places for musicians with
plentiful work and an atmosphere that catered to servicemen passing
through on their way to military duty. He learned to play bongos
from Ruben Blades Sr. who was not a working musician but
nevertheless an excellent bongocero. Mr. Blades' primary occupation
was that of a basketball player, and according to Puntillita, Blades
excelled at it. His friendship with Miguelito Valdés enabled him to
leave Panama as a member of Myrta Silva's group. Miguelito advised
him that he was wasting his time in Panama and spoke to Ms. Silva to
take Kant on tour with her show. Myrta approached Puntillita's
mother to ask her permission to take Luis on tour and on April 17,
1946, Luis Kant left Panama. The tour traveled to Costa Rica,
Guatemala, Mexico, and Cuba. During the month that he stayed in
Cuba, he learned the basics of playing conga from
Wilfredo "Chonguito" Hernández, and from Chano Pozo, he learned the
technique of playing three congas, a style of playing that Kant
would use later in his career in shows in New York and Los Angeles.
Miami was the next stop and eventually they arrived in New York
City, where he found work with Joe Blanco, playing in the mountain
resorts. The list of groups that Puntillita worked with in New York
reads like a who's who of Latin Music: Antonio Tain, Luis Barreto,
Moncho Usera, Juanito Sanabria, Alberto Iznaga, Enrique Madriguera,
Ralph Font, José Curbelo, Julio Andino, Pupi Campo, Joe Loco, Luis
Varona, Fausto Curbelo, The Lecuona Cuban Boys, Esy Morales, René
Touzet, Noro Morales, Tito Puente, Charlie Palmieri, Desi Arnaz,
Dizzy Gillespie, Lalo Shiffrin, and Eddie Cano. In 1953, Luis left
New York for the West Coast with Joe Loco and when the tour ended,
he returned to New York and formed his own group. Now on his own, he
signed a contract to play at the grand opening of the New Frontier
Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. When Mario Lanza, the headliner of
the show became sick, he was replaced with Judy Garland. The
contract was for four weeks but was extended for twelve. While in
Las Vegas, he renewed his friendships with many of the big stars
that frequented Bill Miller's Riviera in New Jersey. After leaving
Las Vegas, he went with his group to San Francisco. The group
disbanded due to lack of work, but fortunately, Cal Tjader offered
him a job playing congas because Luis Miranda was preparing to
leave. He stayed with Tjader for a while until he became sick with
the Aiatic flu and was replaced by Mongo Santamaría and Willie Bobo.
After his recovery he went to Los Angeles and worked with René
Block, George Hernández, Eddie Cano, and Manny López. Kant became
ill with a collapse lung and when he was well enough to travel he
returned to Las Vegas and worked in many of the house bands that
provided the music for the big headliners like Debie Reynolds, Tony
Martin, Cyd Charise, Dick Haymes, Frankie Avalon, Johnny Mathis,
Lena Horne, Abbey Lane and Barbara Eden. He became a member of Tony
Martin's show and traveled extensively throughout the world singing
and playing percussion. In 1973, as member of Tony Martin's group,
Kant played a command performance at The White House at the
invitation of President Richard Nixon, honoring The Shah and Empress
of Iran. Around 1980, the shows in Las Vegas began to use taped
music to cut the expense of hiring musicians and the work came to a
standstill. It was then that Luis Kant retired as a musician and
became a card dealer at the Flamingo Casino until his final
retirement in 1994. He has worked for some of the most notable music
makers and stage personalities that the U.S. has produced, but the
experience he treasures the most is the friendship, camaraderie, and
musical knowledge that he received from Tito Puente. From his humble
occupation as a shoeshine and paper boy in the barrio of Chorillo,
Panama, Luis "Puntillita" Kant never dreamed he would have a career
as fulfilling as the one he has lived. He now free-lances as a
singer and percussionist, doing the work he has loved since he was a

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