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Pérez Prado, Carlos Santana, Tito Puente, and Count Basie

By Luis Gasca

After receiving a scholarship from Downbeat Magazine in 1959 to the Berklee School of music in Boston, I spent my weekends in New York City listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Mingus, and many jazz greats. On the Latin side, I would listen to Mongo Santa María (“Watermelon Man”), Tito Puente (“Oye como va”), and Willie Bobo (“Evil Ways”), which became huge hits for Santana in the 70s. One of my favorite Tito Puente albums was Night Beat, featuring the great trumpet player Doc Severinsen.

Tribute to Pérez Prado, Carlos Santana,
Tito Puente, and Count Basie
Sat, Nov 21, 7pm
Real de Minas Hotel
A benefit for:
La Biblioteca
Feed The Hungry
Casita Linda and

My uncle was a waiter at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston, Texas. He took me to see Doc when I was 17 years old. The “gypsy” in me took me to Los Angeles in the 60s, which was a great time to be there. I joined Pérez Prado at the height of his popularity with mega hits like “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” and “Patricia.”

Prado was a very demanding and complex individual, but it made for a great musical education in Cuban and Afro-Cuban rhythms. We recorded Prado’s “greatest hits” for RCA records while in Japan on tour.

Wanting to explore other musical genres, I found myself at Woodstock with Janis Joplin and met an unknown Mexican guitar player: Carlos Santana, later to become the leader of the Latin rock band Santana.

When I moved to San Francisco in the 70s, Carlos asked me to do his third and fourth albums. While recording my own album, I asked Tito Puente, who was appearing at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to record with me, and I was honored when he said “yes”. It was rare that he recorded with anyone else as a leader.

The “highlight” of my career was touring and recording with the great American musical institution Count Basie—a wonderful man, a real lesson in humanity—especially after all the best of the “rock ‘n’ roll divas,” both male and female. After touring and recording with Prado, Tito, Carlos, or “Count,” I don’t think they would mind if I honored them with a “musical tribute.”

It’s Thanksgiving season, so come check us out and help the charities of San Miguel de Allende: La Biblioteca, Feed the Hungry, Casita Linda, and Avaaz-COP21 (Save The Planet).


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