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Remembering Bobby Vince Paunetto (1944 - 2010)


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It's always a sad day when we reflect upon the passing of a Latin Jazz musician, and it becomes even more heartbreaking as we look back upon a particularly influential musician that deserved wider acclaim. Any musician that put their heart and soul into the style deserves to be remembered fondly; they contribute to the history of the music and the depth of the tradition. Some artists simply see Latin Jazz on a larger scale though, looking past what has been done while looking ahead to what can be accomplished. These musicians deserve a high profile spot in the history books and their recordings should cross any listener's ears. The musical community usually gets hip to these musicians, but the sad fact is that sometimes they loose wider appeal.

Bobby “Vince" Paunetto was a vibraphonist and composer that saw the vast potential of Latin Jazz and exposed it fully through his work. Paunetto was raised in New York City, and his early love of music drew him to the vibraphone. Once he saw Cal Tjader perform in the late fifties, he became addicted to the instrument and fell in love with Latin music. Paunetto gained a recording contract with Seeco Records in 1964, leading to the album El Sonido Moderno. This recording was a traditional small group Latin Jazz date that reflected the strong Tjader influence, while showcasing Paunetto's own skill as a vibraphonist in this context. He pursued further musical studies at the Berklee College Of Music starting in 1969, where he studied extensively with vibes master Gary Burton. Paunetto graduated from Berklee in 1973 and decided to put his compositional skills to use with another recording. The resultant album, Paunetto's Point, showed originality and a forward looking combination of contemporary jazz and Cuban rhythms. It also included a heavy roster of musicians including trumpet player Tom Harrell, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, bassist Andy Gonzalez, timbalero Manny Oquendo, and conguero Jerry Gonzalez. Although the recording escaped the attention of the popular music audience, it became a highly regarded statement of artistry in the Latin Jazz world. Paunetto followed this masterpiece in 1976 with another brilliantly constructed work, Commit to Memory. Paunetto's artistic vision seemed to be expanding into the future, but his career took a distinct turn when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1977. His musical output came to a halt until the nineties, when he released two smart albums with his Commit To Memory Band—Composer in Publicand Reconstituted. These would be his last recordings before his death at the age of 66 on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010.

Paunetto's total recorded output equals a total of five albums, a small number that does not reflect the broad reach of his musical vision. The rich textures and bold harmonies on Paunetto's Pointtook Latin Jazz in a completely new direction. Commit to Memorytook his concept one step further while his later recordings brought the man's amazing potential into a new light. For the Latin Jazz fan, these recordings are mandatory listening—if you haven't checked out Paunetto, don't delay. We'll be digging into Paunetto's legacy and influence in more detail here at LJC in the near future; if you'd like a little more info on Paunetto, check out this archived LJC article on Paunetto's Point. Then take some time to reflect upon Paunetto's legacy with some deep listening; you'll be glad that you did.

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This story appears courtesy of The Latin Jazz Corner by Chip Boaz.
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