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Latin musician Tito Puente dies after heart surgery
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Tito Puente, the Latin music bandleader and percussionist, died Wednesday night at New York University Hospital after undergoing heart surgery, a spokesman said Thursday. He was 77.
"I can tell you that it's just a sad day, a sad day for the Latin music industry," said Eddie Rodriguez, Puente's manager. "Tito was known all over the world."
In February, Puente won his fifth Grammy for best traditional tropical Latin performance for "Mambo Birdland."
Puente recorded more than 100 albums in his 60-year career and was instrumental in defining Latin jazz. He continued to perform live in recent years, often fronting his band while playing the timbales, single-headed drums mounted on stands and played with sticks.
In 1997, RMM Records released "50 Years of Swing," a three-CD, 50-song compilation of Puente's works over a 50-year span.
Puente had just completed his 120th album, with Eddie Palmieri, called "Por Fin/At Last", so named because they had finished the album "at last," Rodriguez said.
"I just kept listening to the album last night, and the solos he did on the album are just incredible," he said. "And he was sick when he was doing that."
Puente also had been working on a symphonic arrangement of his most famous song, "Oye como va?," Rodriguez said.
Shortness of breath prompted Puente to seek medical treatment last April. Doctors diagnosed a faulty heart valve, and he underwent open-heart surgery at the hospital Wednesday morning to repair it.
"There was no doubt in anybody's mind that this was a procedure he was going to recover from," Rodriguez said. It was not until late in the night that Rodriguez learned he had died.
Puente was born April 20, 1923, in New York City. He started playing piano at 7 and studied drums for years before specializing in the timbales. He studied conducting, orchestration and theory at the Juilliard School from 1945 to 1947 on the GI Bill.
He started his music career in the '50s. One of his most successful albums of that decade was "Puente Goes Jazz," released in 1956.
His wife, Margie; eldest son Ronnie; daughter Audrey, a meteorologist on NBC; youngest son Tito Puente Jr., an R&B hip-hop artist; and a granddaughter were at the hospital when Puente died, his manager said.
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