Craft Latino proudly announces a vinyl reissue for Tito Puente’s foundational Latin jazz masterpiece 'El Rey Bravo'

Article Contributed by Craft Recordings | Published on Saturday, September 30, 2023

Craft Latino proudly announces a vinyl reissue for Tito Puente’s foundational Latin jazz masterpiece, El Rey Bravo. Originally released on Tico Records in 1962, the album includes the legendary bandleader and percussionist’s iconic hit, “Oye Cómo Va,” plus enduring favorites like “Tombola” and “Tokyo de Noche.” Set for release November 10th and available for pre-order today, El Rey Bravo features (AAA) lacquers cut from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Completing the package is a vintage-style tip-on jacket featuring the album’s classic design. Additionally, for the very first time, fans can experience El Rey Bravo in 192/24 hi-res audio on select digital platforms. In addition, a Canary Yellow color vinyl exclusive, limited to 500 copies, with exciting bundle options that include a commemorative Tito Puente T-shirt is being offered at Vinyl Me, Please is also releasing a 180-gram Orange Crush exclusive variant.

This reissue offers a fitting cap to Craft Latino’s year-long centennial celebration of the influential artist. Throughout 2023, the label has honored Puente’s vital contributions to Latin music through exclusive digital content and a series of releases, including 180-gram vinyl pressings of Puente’s 1972 classic, Para los Rumberos, and his best-selling 1985 album, Mambo Diablo.

In the late 1940s, an exciting new sound was taking root in New York jazz clubs, as Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians settled in the city, introducing Afro-Cuban and Caribbean rhythms to American audiences. Within a few years, everyone was dancing to the cha-cha-chá and mambo, thanks to a host of inspired young artists, including Tito Puente (1923–2000). The Manhattan-born, Puerto Rican percussionist honed his craft under the legendary Cuban bandleader Machito, who was instrumental in bringing Afro-Cuban jazz to America. Puente furthered his studies at the prestigious Juilliard School, where he received a degree in conducting, orchestration and theory. Before long, he was leading his own orchestra and by the end of the ’50s, “The King of Timbales,” as he was lovingly known, was one of the era’s most successful bandleaders, with multiple hit albums to his name, including 1958’s Dance Mania.

When 1962’s El Rey Bravo arrived on Tico Records, more than a decade into Puente’s career, the bandleader and his orchestra were at the height of their prowess. El Rey Bravo cements the band’s status, as they deliver a dazzling set of original dancefloor numbers—all primarily comprised by Puente. Among the highlights is the fiery opener, “Malanga con Yuca” (“Potatoes and Beans”), the joyful “Batacumba” (“Brazilian Beat”) and the cinematic “Tokyo de Noche” (“Tokyo After Dark”)—a rare instrumental track that features standout flute and violin solos. One of the album’s few covers is “Tombola” (“Circus”), written by the legendary team of Augusto Algueró and Antonio Guijarro for the 1962 Spanish musical of the same name.

The centerpiece of the album, however, is “Oye Cómo Va.” Praised by AllMusic as “one of the brightest, most exuberant Latin performances of the century,” the song was written by Puente as a classic cha-cha-chá, with an inviting title that borrowed from the chorus, “Oye cómo va/Mi ritmo” (“Listen how it goes/My rhythm”). While the infectious song was certainly a favorite of fans at the time of its release, “Oye Cómo Va” would become an international hit nearly a decade later, thanks to Carlos Santana. With his band, Santana, the Mexican-born guitarist transformed the classic tune into a psychedelic anthem of unity, swapping the song’s original horn section for a Hammond B3 organ and electric guitar.

This updated rendition of “Oye Cómo Va” was released in 1971 as the second single off Santana’s sophomore album, Abraxas. It was a major hit for the band, peaking at No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100, and landing in the Top 10 in Mexico and Canada. But it also gave a middle-aged Puente a significant boost. On his 1999 live album, Mambo Birdland, Puente introduced “Oye Cómo Va” with a tribute to Carlos Santana: “He put our music, Latin rock, around the world, man. And I’d like to thank him publicly ’cause he recorded the tune and he gave me credit as the composer of the tune. So since that day, all we play is Santana music.”

Thanks to artists like Santana (who also covered Puente’s song “Para los Rumberos” in 1972), the bandleader enjoyed a career resurgence. At the same time, salsa music was reaching peak popularity. As a reluctant forefather of the genre, Puente’s status as a cultural icon only continued to grow. “Oye Cómo Va,” meanwhile, would become a standard, covered over the decades by numerous artists, including Julio Iglesias, Celia Cruz, Natalie Cole and the Ventures, to name a few. Santana’s rendition of the song would be inducted into the Latin GRAMMY® Hall of Fame in 2001 and the GRAMMY Hall of Fame a year later, while it ranks on a variety of lists, including Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Puente never slowed down and continued to remain in the public eye until his death in 2000. During his five-decade-long career, the tireless artist released more than 100 albums and wrote over 400 compositions, while he collaborated with the biggest names in music, including Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Celia Cruz. Among other achievements, he performed at the 1996 Summer Olympics’ closing ceremony, appeared in a variety of films (including 1987’s Radio Days, 1992’s The Mambo Kings and the 2000 documentary Calle 54) and even made a cameo on The Simpsons. Throughout his life, Puente’s influential work was celebrated with an array of honors, including five GRAMMYs, Billboard’s Latin Music Lifetime Achievement Award and the prestigious National Medal of Arts from the United States Government.

Click here to pre-order El Rey Bravo

Click here to find the exclusive bundle including the Canary Yellow color vinyl with the commemorative T-shirt

El Rey Bravo tracklist (vinyl)

Side A:

1. Malanga Con Yuca

2. Oye Cómo Va

3. Tokyo De Noche

4. Tombola

5. Traigo El Coco Seco

6. Africa Habla

Side B:

1. Batacumba

2. La Pase Gozando

3. Tito Suena El Timbal

4. Donde Vas

5. Gato Miau, Miau

El Rey Bravo tracklist (hi-res digital)

1. Malanga Con Yuca

2. Oye Cómo Va

3. Tokyo De Noche

4. Tombola

5. Traigo El Coco Seco

6. Africa Habla

7. Batacumba

8. La Pase Gozando

9. Tito Suena El Timbal

10. Donde Vas

11. Gato Miau, Miau