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Ernesto Antonio Puente Jnr., 20 April 1923, Harlem Hospital, New York City, New York, USA, d. 31 May 2000, New York City, New York, USA. Born of Puerto Rican parentage, Puente began piano lessons when he was seven years old and around the age of 10 started tuition in drums and percussion, which became his forte. Around 1936, Puente commenced his professional career as a drummer with the orchestra of Noro Morales. In 1941, he played with the Machito band which provided valuable lessons in the fusion of Latin rhythms and modern jazz. World War II intervened and Puente was drafted into the US Navy for three years service. After his discharge he took composition and piano courses at New Yorks Juilliard School of Music and did stints with the bands of José Curbelo and Fernando Alvarez between 1946 and 1947. With Curbelo, Puente performed alongside Tito Rodríguez, who later became his arch-rival.