Master conguero Ray Barretto and salsa queen Celia Cruz had already worked together on the 1983 session Tremendo Trío, which found them teaming up with Puerto Rican sonero Adalberto Santiago. Five years later, towards the end of 1988, la guarachera and Barretto recorded the delightful, no-frills salsa session that you hold in your hands. The quality of the songwriting and the excellent production values of "Ritmo En El Corazon" gained the album a Grammy award in 1990.
Pianist Red Garland recorded frequently with trios for Prestige during the second half of the 1950s. For this set (reissued on CD), Garland, bassist George Joyner and drummer Charlie Persip are joined by Ray Barretto on congas and the emphasis is on forceful swinging. Garland takes such ballads as "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "You Better Go Now" at faster-than-expected tempos. "Ralph J. Gleason Blues" and the Latin feel of "Rojo" are among the highlights of this enjoyable disc.
Ray Barretto's Carnaval combines two 1962 sessions, Pachanga with Barretto (his Milestone label debut as a leader) and Latino!. Both sets feature Barretto's first band, Charanga Moderna, with trumpeter El Negro Vivar and tenor saxophonist Jose Chombo Silva added to the front line for the latter LP. The first album is very much Latin jazz of its time, with all ten tracks designed for dancing the briefly popular pachanga, a dance that was simply too manic and difficult to catch on widely. The pachanga-friendly tempos on these ten brief cuts (most under three minutes) make the album sound rushed and nervous to ears unfamiliar with the dance fad. The far-better Latino!, recorded in nearly the same session, is a good old-fashioned jam session, with more leisurely tempos and extended playing times that give all the soloists – especially Vivar, Silva, and flutist Jose Canoura – plenty of room to stretch out. These two albums are very different, but hearing both of them in proximity reveals much about the state of the New York City Latin jazz scene in the early '60s.
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".
While Ray Barretto's congas have graced more recording sessions than virtually any other conguero of his time, he has also led some refreshingly progressive Latin jazz bands over the decades. His records often have a more tense, more adventurously eclectic edge than those of most conventional salsa groups, unafraid to use electronics and novel instrumental or structural combinations, driven hard by his rocksteady, endlessly flexible percussion work.
One of Ray Barretto's more erratic albums of the 1970s, Can You Feel It? is a collection of pop-jazz/crossover, fusion, and pop-soul that ranges from the exciting to the forgettable. Parts of this album find the conguero wasting his considerable talents on lesser material, but other parts find him letting loose and taking chances. "Whirlpool," "Daydreams," and the insistent "Confrontation" are solid fusion instrumentals that would have been worthy of Return to Forever, and "Sting Ray" has the type of catchy jazz-funk groove that would have worked on one of Joe Farrell's CTI dates of the 1970s.
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.