[JPL] Yolanda Duke & the Tito Puente Orchestra

Arturo Gomez arturo at kuvo.org
Mon Nov 8 11:03:20 EST 2010

After over a year awaiting its release, I was pleased to have finally received "Many Moods" by the former T P orchestra singer from the Dominican, Yolanda Duke, she prefers that her surname be pronounced in Español, doo kay. Master percussionist and imaginative arranger José Madera(Jr) has been living in metro Denver for several years, Woody and his percussionist partner in various Tito Puente bands for over 20 years-Johnny "Dandy" Rodríguez inherited the orchestra from the maestro upon his passing at his request. A battle for the use of the name as a ghost band ensued with the Puente estate leading to the former T P orchestra being rechristened The Latin Giants of Jazz-they released 3 recordings on the Denver based Gigantes Records label, then last year the band decided to leave the label and their management and once again took on a new name, the Mambo Legends Orchestra-most of the band had been with Tito for over 20 years as well and they have the charts and song book, look for their new CD coming out early in 2011.

Yolanda Duke solicited permission from the Puente estate to use the Tito Puente orchestra name, it's curious that the band that is not allowed to use their former band  leader's name is the band accompanying Yolanda Duke in her romp through jazz and Latin standards.  Once again Madera's arrangements are to be commended, he takes the classic sound of the "1950s Palladium Mambo" era led by the "Big 3", Tito Rodríguez, Machito and Puente orchestras, gives it a contemporary edge yet does not lose any of the luster of the time that the Cuban mambo, cha cha chá and other rhythms shined their brightest in the Big Apple. Although Md Duke is the not the most gifted singer of jazz material-she holds her own and her accent adds to my personal enjoyment, my preferred track is La Peleona(the argumentative woman) where Yolanda teams up with fellow Dominican salsa singer José Alberto-El Canario in a rousing remake of the Machito orchestra tune that was a showcase for the late sassy singer, Graciela.

Dandy Rodríguez and Woody Madera's fathers were both members of the original Machito's Afro-Cuban Orchestra in the 1940s and they were born and raised in that fertile music world so they it is not surprising that they have led a recording which is  such a magnificent example of what happens to Cuban music when it arrives to NYC and is nurtured with jazz sensibilities and the unique ingredients only New York can offer.

Arturo Gómez
Music Director
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