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Although both of his parents were full-blooded Puerto Ricans, Ray Barretto was as American as they come. Born in Brooklyn, by the age of seven he had already resided in that borough, as well as Spanish Harlem and the Bronx. His biological lineage, combined with the place he was born and raised, gives new meaning to the concept of Latin jazz.
Fania honors his legacy with a compilation featuring ten of the strongest works he recorded for the label. Before his immensely successful solo career, Barretto worked his way into the popular jazz arena as the go-to percussionist for straight-ahead acts looking to combine hard bop with an exotic Latin tinge. He recorded on essential albums by jazz luminaries such as Lou Donaldson
, Barretto moved beyond the realm of the sideman and began to cultivate his own unique sound, a venture that culminated in 1961 with the recording of his mega-hit "El Watusi," a pop crossover that forever established his reputation. That record's success allowed him to branch out and record the more challenging work heard on this compilation, which chronicles his output for the label from 1965-82. Only two standards are included: a rousing tribute to his idol Chano Pozo with "Tin Tin Deo" and a funky reading of "Round About Midnight," before Barretto's formidable crew returns to what it does bestplaying the scorching Latin rhythms that make this release a perfect complement to the balmy New York summer.
One highlight is "Cocinando," a lengthy Barretto original from Que Viva Musica (Salsa, 1982). Once it's stated, a sublime theme on the electric piano is never abandoned and the orchestraanchored by Rene Lopez's work on the muted trumpetholds onto its inspiration for more than ten minutes. Barretto and company reach a fever pitch on "Lucretia the Cat," from 1973's The Other Road (Fania). This tune, with its intense brass arrangements, begs to be sampled by a hip hop producer daring enough to concoct the next Latin-infused "club banger." Apart from being an essential summer Latin jazz mix, this compilation will open the door to the rest of Barretto's extensive catalogue, which is guaranteed to be an enlightening experience to music fans of all backgrounds.