Happy Birthday, El Rey! 10 Fiery Tito Puente Cuts

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Tito Puente on vibraphone at the Palladium.

Celebrating the late Tito Puente's birthday gives us a chance to revel in his mid-1950s RCA years. Backed by major label money, the King of Latin Music was able to realize the sounds he heard in his head on bandstands and in recording studios.

This meant big band dance music, agile soneros whose improvised vocals complimented the bands and small-group percussion experiments.

We asked percussionist Miguel Ramirez of the Grammy-winning band La Santa Cecilia to pick 10 of his favorite tracks from that very fertile time for the bandleader, who was born on this day in 1923 and died in 2000.

For more great Latin music in all styles, head to NPR Music's Alt.Latino radio channel.

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