A beloved institution of Puerto Rican music, El Gran Combo are a world renowned big band orchestra who have been taking their vibrant, joyous, salsa sounds to the great venues of the world for more than 50 years. Band leader Rafael Ithier made his name as part of Cortijo y Su Combo, but when they faced legal problems Ithier was asked to assemble backing musicians to play on an album by merengue singer Joseuto Mateo in 1963. The group grew into its own entity when their album 'Acangana' became a hit with the Latin community in New York and word spread of their colourful dance rhythms to Mexico and other parts of South America. In their home country their performances on the television variety programme 'El Show De Las 12' further grew their fame, and they went on to release the popular albums 'Bogaloo Con El Gran Combo', 'Por El Libro' and 'Aqui No Se Sienta Nadie' and perform at Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. Unlike most successful big bands of the '60s and '70s, they continued to base themselves in Puerto Rico and became 'the university of salsa' as they attracted the best up-and-coming musicians and mentored them. Though Ithier remained in charge as musical director, other key members over the years included singers Pellin Rodriguez, Charli Aponte and Jerry Rivas, trumpeter Luis 'Taty' Maldano, saxophone player Eddie 'La Balla' Perez and percussionists Miguel 'Pollo' Torres and Marin Quinones. Piano player Willie Sotelo continued to lead the band on an active touring schedule, as they remain a pivotal group in the world of Latin music.