Art Avalos: Tito Puente Injections

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Manteca: Art Avalos


We’d been in Manteca for more than ten years when I finally figured out how come he was so good. Oh, I’d always been a little in awe of his playing. You could lean across his groove and it would not move…he seemed locked to some metronomic God of percussion. Maybe instead of vaccines when he was growing up in California they gave him Tito Puente DNA injections. No matter what instrument he had in his hand, he always had something inspiring to say and I’d mumble to myself, “you know dude, you really should practice more”. When we would record I would taunt him, “Art play better so I can take credit for it!”, I mean really, who knows which hand drummer is playing what hand drum on which side of the stereo spectrum? In 1991 we were in Los Angles doing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival. We went to Art’s parent’s place for a BBQ, arrived on our gigantic tour bus, which goes a long way towards announcing the homecoming of a long lost son! The Rock Star is in!


We were having a swim in the pool, the chicken was grilling, the home made tortillas were on the griddle, the neighbors were all wandering inside the tour bus and that’s when I realized that Art’s percussive powers came from a little box sitting on a shelf above the sink. It was a tiny, tinny plastic radio, welded to the local Salsa station. He had been listening to this box since he was crawling on the kitchen floor…so in a way he did have DNA infusions of Puente.

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