Making the transition from the ghettos of New York Latin barrios to the heights of the music world requires enormous character. Such is the case of Ray Barretto.
Never straying from his roots, he was a great admirer of swing, jam, jazz, and the genres’ most noted figures, such as Dizzy Gillespie. He made these genres his own.
His career took on a new dimension in 1967, when he replaced Mongo Santamaría in the Tito Puente Orchestra, with whom he recorded his first album, “Dance Mania.” The album’s success would set the stage for his future professional career.
Between 1968 and 1975, Barretto recorded a total of nine albums on the Fania label, a label which he helped to create.
He was a sensitive artist, open to all musical currents and manifestations, which allowed him to experiment with the many different rhythms he infused with his unique style.
The musical legacy of Ray Barretto included a Best Latin Album Grammy in 1989 for “Ritmo en el corazón,” which he recorded with Celia Cruz. In 1990, he took a seat of honor in the Salon de Fama for International Latin Music. He was also honored with the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award. These were the most prestigious of the many awards he won over the course of his career.
With his death, his life may have ended, but his star shines on more brightly than ever in the musical heavens.
Ray Barretto’s career has been a long and varied journey. Born in Brooklyn on April 29, 1929, he is the quintessential Nuyorican, a Puerto Rican born and raised in New York City. By the age of two, his family had moved to Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem and by seven, the South Bronx.
Barretto’s bi-cultural experience was reinforced during his stint as a private in the Army during the late 1940’s. “Hangin’ with the black GI’s [in Germany] and hearing the new progressive jazz that was happening then, be-bop, well, I was home.” Being exposed to Dizzy Gillespie’s collaborations with Cuban conguero Chano Pozo further solidified that feeling and inspired him to begin learning the musical intricacies of the conga drum. Barretto led a successful career as a sideman on jazz recordings with leaders like José Curbelo and Tito Puente. He then had success leading a charanga-style ensemble (a Cuban dance band that uses flute and violins) producing a highly successful crossover hit, El Watusi.
But Ray was ready for a change. He formed a conjunto, a small Cuban-style dance band, with two trumpets and a rhythm section. “Jerry Masucci of Fania sought me out and the time was right. The title, Acid, was his idea.” By 1966 a new sound had appeared on the New York dance music scene—Latin Boogaloo. A unique combination of son montuno, cha-cha-cha and R&B, this new sound was put down by many established bandleaders and purists, but Barretto embraced it. “I had been Black for a long time besides being Puerto Rican. It was part of growing up in New York.” And so the album opens with the funky, hard-driving son montuno titled El Nuevo Barretto. Listen closely to the opening break/trumpet phrase. Carlos Santana would recycle it later in his version of Tito Puente’s Oye Como Va. On Mercy, Mercy, Baby, vocalist and fellow Nuyorican Pete Bonet, easily riffs in English, reflecting the influence African-American culture has had on the New York-Puerto Rican experience.
One of the gems on this recording is the title tune, Acid. It’s simple, funky bass tumbao (a repetitive, rhythmic pattern) is played by the late great, legendary Cuban-American bassist, Bobby Rodriguez, who Barretto affectionately dubbed, “Big Daddy.” The result, recorded in one take, is a tour de force that combines a jazz aesthetic with the drive of Afro-Cuban rhythm. René Lopez’s solo on muted trumpet is equal parts Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, with some funky Cuban shadings and his own Nuyorican attitude. Cuban, timbalero Orestes Vilato, a carry over from Barretto’s charanga, had been with Cuban flute virtuoso José Fajardo’s charanga where he was never featured as a soloist. That completely changed on Acid and Soul Drummers, thus inspiring a new generation of young percussionists. Fellow Cuban trumpeter Roberto Rodriguez plays a soaring lead solo. “Roberto holds a special place in my heart. He held a day job as a manager of an auto mechanic shop and never missed a gig or rehearsal with me and he always played his butt off.
He was a man’s man”. Barretto follows and starts with a quiet open roll that comes out of nowhere and builds to a climax of explosive slaps. The power and energy that he generates exudes exclamations of affirmation from his fellow band-mates. A final piano montuno by Louis Cruz with some final explosive trumpet work by Rodriguez while Lopez plays a tasty moña (a short improvised mambo line) underneath him closes the tune. A Deeper Shade of Soul, Teacher of Love and Soul Drummers, Teacher of Love and Soul Drummers continue in the boogaloo groove. Sola te Dejaréis a straight up, swinging mambo/guaracha about an egotistical woman who winds up alone. It’s a showcase for vocalist Adalberto Santiago’s talents as a sonero (vocal improviser). The closer on the album is the other gem, Espíritu Libre. It opens with a percussive dialogue between Orestes playing mallets on the timbales and Barretto on congas. A haunting melody is stated by Lopez, then mirrored by Rodriguez on muted trumpet. Big Daddy enters with a bass line in 6/8 meter accompanied by Santiago unwavering on a small bell. While Bonet strikes a jawbone, Barretto and Vilato converse over the West African-rooted rhythm known as bembé . Featured soloist Lopez uses some nice special effects and pianist Louis Cruz adds some unexpectedly eerie blues phrases as the intensity builds and finally comes to an abrupt halt. A recapitulation of the haunting melody of these two trumpets closes the piece and ends this journey to Africa. “Jazz is always at the core of what I do musically,” Barretto always said.
As the most recorded hand percussionist in jazz history, and a leading force in salsa, this indeed is the case. In the New York/Puerto Rican experience, this duality is the norm, not the exception. From the early Latinos in New Orleans who participated in jazz’s birth, to Nuyoricans like maestro Barretto, this rich musical journey continues. Welcome to part of that journey— Barretto’s debut album for Fania, Acid.
PERSONNEL: Ray Barretto – musical director, congas Roberto Rodriguez – trumpet René Lopez – trumpet Orestes Vilato – timbales Louis Crúz- piano Bobby “Big Daddy” Rodriguez – Ampeg baby bass Adalberto Santiago – Spanish lead vocals, clave on Acid, maracas on Sola Te Dejaré, cha–cha bell on Espíritu Libre, tambourine and cencerro (bongó bell) on El Nuevo Barretto Pete Bonet – English vocals, guiro, quijada de burro (jaw of a donkey) on Espíritu Libre Background vocals: Jimmy Sabater and Willie Torres on Mercy, Mercy, Baby – Soul Drummers – Teacher of Love Adalberto Santiago and Pete Bonet on first part of El Nuevo Barretto, Pete Bonet and Ray Barretto on the last half of the tune. Pete Bonet , Willie Torres and Jimmy Sabater on Sola Te Dejaré This album was recorded in real time with no overdubs. Arrangements: Gil Lopez – Sola Te Dejaré concepts for all other arrangements by Ray Barretto Recorded at RCA studios, 1967 Produced by Harvey Averne Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci Photos by Marty Topp Album cover design by Izzy Sanabria
Bass – Mr. Soul
Bongos – Tony Fuentes
Congas – Ray Barretto
Piano – Louis Cruz
Timbales – Orestes Vilato
Trumpet – "Papy" Roman , Roberto Rodriguez
Vocals – Adalberto Santiago
"Head Sounds" is a heck of a great way to describe this album -- as it's filled with some of Ray's most mind-expanding cuts! The album kicks off with the tune "Acid", which you probably know from the album of the same name, but which still really does a great job of setting the pace here -- and then it rolls into some fantastic longer cuts that really have a very strong jazz component. Ray and the group stretch out tremendously, hitting off-color notes and tones that almost make the record feel like one of Eddie Palmieri's jammers from the same time. 3 tracks on the set are over 8 minutes long, which should give you a good feel of the openness of the work -- and titles include "Abidjan", "Espiritu Libre", "Drum Poem", and "Tin Tin Deo"
LATIN CON SOUL
one of the true originals of new york latin music, ray barretto's career spanned the whole of its post war development from dancehalls to the stadium sized salsa concerts of the 70s and beyond. ray was gifted with a breezy populism, that meant that although he never lowered his musical standards, he was one of the first latin stars to crossover. his crossover was never more obvious than during the 1960s when he rode a streak from 1963's pop hit 'el watusi' on through the sounds of boogaloo, latin soul and latin funk - all informed by a healthy chunk of ray's first love jazz - that have kept collectors, clubbers and sample hunting producers hungry for them ever since. this cd is the first ever to focus just on this period of his career, the point where he was most definitely 'the latin soul man'. this collection of barretto works is just all killer. it features two of the finest latin funk 45's ever laid down on wax in 'together' and 'right on', plus another 15 more tracks of pure joy to savour. from the marvellous interpretation of john barry's 'from russia with love theme' ('senor 007') to the prime groove of 'got to have you' from the magnificent 'hard hands', barretto's work here is the output of a true legend. and we haven't even mentioned his 1968 cosmic opus, 'acid', which is represented here by four stunning cuts - the stonking club favourite 'soul drummers', 'the teacher of love', 'mercy mercy baby' and the aptly titled 'a deeper shade of soul'. from memphis style horn arrangements to his scorching percussion breakdowns, barretto's power never sounded so good than on this superb collection. hard hands con soul.
Justi Barreto - Composer
Ray Barretto - Arranger, Composer, Conductor
Pedro Bonet - Composer
Pete Bonet - Vocals
this obscure and extremely rare album of Ray Barretto "El Watusi," with the sensational voice of Brook Peters and which was originally issued on Charlie Parker Records, is considered as a gem by Exotica / African / Latin Jazz music lovers.
Ray Barretto is perhaps the greatest conga artist in the world today. He will not surprise his fans with his performances here. He is magnificent throughout the entire album. He plays with an authenticity he draws from the ethnic roots of music and provides us with the excitement of the music itself and the discovery of the roots of modern jazz.
Film star Brock Peters is said to have one of the finest voices of his generation and is a multi-talent that is top drawer in whatever he does. He performed successfully in Duke Ellingtons Concerts of Sacred Music. His father was a Senegalese, and although Brock was born in New York City, out of the misted memories of his heritage has come the inspiration for this album.
Ray Barretto (congas), Chief Bey (congas), George Duvivier (bass), Sticks Evans (tympani), Al Leas (flute), Brock Peters (vocals).
Recorded in New York City, 1963
SEÑOR 007 is a collection which will do several things. First, it will provide immeasurable pleasure to the millions of James Bond addicts. Second, it will add many more fans to the ever-growing list of RAY BARRETTO devotees. Third, it will present many happy moments to dancers. Fourth, it will enthrall discerning listeners. In short, SEÑOR 007 is a gas! All the excitement of the dauntless Ian Fleming hero is musically brought to the fore through RAY BARRETTO's very distinctive treatments. VIVA SEÑOR 007!
Ray Barretto y su Conjunto, probably featuring Roberto Rodríguez (trumpet), Joe Wohletz (trombone), Mike Dante, Barry Finclair (violin), Eddie Martínez (piano), Carlos Castillo (bass), Orestes Vilato (pailas).
Recorded in New York, 1965
Launched 2011,by Barrow Producer & musician,
Jason Lee Lazell, the world & jazz buyer for Tower Records
(1993-2003) the largest record store in Europe…the critically acclaimed label Moochin’ About has gained admiration from Cerys Matthews,Huey Morgan,Giles Peterson,Jamie Cullum,Stuart Marcone,Johnny Trunk,Robert Elms,Iggy Pop…...more