Ray Barretto a.k.a. King of the Hard Hands (April 29, 1929 – February 17, 2006), was an American jazz musician, widely credited as the godfather of Latin jazz. He was also the first Hispanic to record a Latin song which became a "hit" in the American Billboard Charts.
The sleeve notes say it best: Ray Barretto was one of the true originals of New York Latin music. His career spanned the whole of its post-war development from dancehalls to the stadium-sized salsa concerts of the ’70s and beyond.Born in New York to Puerto Rican parents on April 29, 1929, Ray grew up surrounded by a melting pot of musical influences. Drafted into the army at the age of 17, it was in the immediate post-war Germany that he heard the record that changed his life Manteca by the Dizzie Gillespie band which at the time featured the Cuban percussion legend Chano Pozo on the conga.
Producer Creed Taylor has inspired everything from praise to anger among jazz fans. His work has been brilliant at times, detrimental at others (his worst flaw being a tendency to overproduce). Taylor plays a mostly positive role on La Cuna, a jazz-oriented effort uniting Ray Barretto with such first-class talent as Tito Puente (timbales) and the late Joe Farrell (tenor & soprano sax, flute). ~ AllMusic
If you wonder (a) why Barretto suddenly has such a hot band, (b) what the two hokey Mexicali cuts are doing mixed in with all the other fine stuff, and © why there are zippo notes, one explanation fits all. This CD, copyright 1994, is a re-release of one of Barretto's long-lost 1960s United Artists recordings. But the music is terrific: a hell of a swing, great solo trumpet.
Ray Barretto's Taboo features a new, smaller version of his New World Spirit ensemble. Hector Martignon, who composes along with Barretto, is still here, as are Satoshi Takeishi, Ray Vega, and Jairo Moreno. Saxophonist Adam Kolker takes the sax chair vacated by Jay Rodriguez, and guitarist Alfredo Gonzales has not been replaced. The material is far jazzier on Taboo. Barretto explored the roots of Latin jazz as it transformed itself into the New York version of son and salsa on 2003's Hot Hands: Ancestral Messages, and Taboo serves as a guidebook to present and future tenses of Latin jazz. For starters, one can read between the lines that Ray Vega's charts have moved far a-field of the standard notions surrounding big band arrangements. Everything here feels fluid and relaxed; the playing leaves spontaneity in the air whether it is on a Barretto or a Martignon original, such as on "Bomba-Riquen," "99 MacDougal St," or something from the hard bop cannon by Nat Adderley and Oscar Brown, Jr., such as the classic "Work Song," or a modal tune like McCoy Tyner's "Effendi".