Buckman season gets spicy when mambo meets salsa

Tito Puente Jr. and Melina Almodovar will perform their on-stage magic in the Mid-South on Oct. 21. The performance will be at the Buckman Arts Center at St. Mary’s School, 60 Perkins Extended, Memphis.

At 2 p.m., there will be a free salsa dance master class in the Buckman dance studio. Then from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 21, the Levy Gallery will host an opening reception for Memphis artist and professor, Lisa Williamson, a life-long friend of Melina’s. At 7 p.m., Tito and Melina will take to the main stage for an evening of fiery Latin rhythms. At 10 a.m. the next morning, the duo will offer a free lecture/demonstration for Shelby County students.

Puerto Rican-born salsa siren Melina Almodovar returns to her Memphis roots, where her celebrated career began, to perform with Latin legend Tito Puente, Jr., heir to the musical legacy established by his late father, the Mambo King. This electrifying Billboard award-winning, Grammy-nominated duo will have audiences on their feet and dancing in the aisles in a celebration of Latin culture, music and dance. The two joined forces in Miami five years ago and are revered for their sensational, high-energy performances.

Tito Puente Jr. carries more than his late father’s name; he also shares his passion and joy for performing and a deep commitment to continuing the legacy of celebrating and showcasing Latin music. He began his journey recording the senior Puente’s hits. The crowds embraced him, and he embraced his birthright. Six albums and numerous awards later, Tito Puente, Jr. is celebrated by Tropical and Latin Jazz critics for his contributions to highlight and reinterpret the music of the Caribbean, Central and South America, and of course, Southern Florida.

Born in New York, Tito moved to Miami to focus on his Latin orchestra full time. Today, he performs over 300 shows per year at such prestigious venues as Harlem’s Apollo Theater. He is a symphony orchestra soloist with such impressive ensembles as the National Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch and makes many featured television appearances on everything from BET to PBS and tele novellas.

Born in Puerto Rico, Melina Almodovar and her mother moved her to Memphis after her father, a bolero singer, died suddenly. At the age of sixteen, she started the Mid-South’s first Salsa band, Orquesta Caliente, in partnership with an assortment of esteemed University of Memphis horn professors. The group went on to score a Grammy nomination for their first Salsa album.

At 25, she relocated to Miami and was quickly dubbed “La Muñeca De La Salsa” for her energetic dancing, rousing, strong vocals and charismatic stage presence. She was hired to entertain by such luminaries as Sean Combs and Emilio Estefan. She tours around the country and Puerto Rico singing and dancing. She created one of the longest running Salsa dance shows in South Beach.

Tito and Melina began performing select gigs together a decade ago. In recent years, the two have toured together, spreading the rich culture of Latin music and Salsa dance across the country with regular stints in Las Vegas. This past year, they recorded an EP together. Their recently released single, “Mi Socio,” has been climbing the charts.

Tickets are $28 for adults and $25 for students and seniors. Box office hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays as well as one hour before performances; call (901) 537-1483.

For more information, visit buckmanartscenter.com or melinaalmodovar.com.