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Ray Barretto: Que Viva La Musica

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Few would argue that a prime place to start in a new or renewed appreciation of Ray Barretto would have to be 1972’s Que Viva La Music, with Craft’s recent 50th Anniversary edition pushing all the right buttons.
Ray Barretto: Que Viva La Musica
Much has been made about the making of a hybrid style involving Latin music and jazz strains that was established by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo in the late '40s. However, the ripples of those early experiments would reach far and wide for subsequent decades, even if the casual listener might have been largely unaware of such developments. One of the key figures to come from this movement would be the late conguero Ray Barretto, who has yet to be given credit for groundbreaking early work with jazz artists such as Red Garland, Herbie Mann, Gene Ammons, and Kenny Burrell.

As a leader, Barretto would record almost two dozen albums of his own between 1961 and 1973. Recently unearthed video that would be part of the documentary Summer Of Soul (... Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021) also captured the conguero in 1969 mesmerizing the crowd at the Harlem Cultural Festival. Going on to be a key member of the Fania Records family, Barretto nonetheless was mainly admired by Latinos in large, urban cities such as New York and Los Angeles. Fortunately, Craft Recordings has taken to revisiting several of Barretto's most iconic albums for Fania as part of their far-reaching vinyl reissue series, giving wider exposure to this vibrant music.

Few would argue that a prime place to start in a new or renewed appreciation of Barretto would have to be 1972's Que Viva La Music, with Craft's recent 50th Anniversary edition pushing all the right buttons. This all-analog reissue pressed on 180-gram vinyl was mastered by the prodigious Kevin Gray and is housed in a thick cardboard jacket. The pressing reviewed here was flat and quiet throughout, with a wonderful sense of dynamics and a wide soundstage.

The set opens with the title track, a descarga number that initially boasts call-and-response patterns from Barretto and renowned sonero Adalberto Santiago. As the horns enter and broaden the sonic landscape, the 2/3 clave sets up a vivacious dance that also includes a spectacular conga solo. In the late 30s, Arsenio Rodriguez brought to prominence the style known as son, which was based on native African rhythms from the Bantu tradition. Marked by call-and-response patterns and the insistent rhythmic beat of the clave, "Bruca Manigua" is a standard of the genre and Barretto and crew do the Rodriguez original proud in their updated version.

The last two numbers on the first side are Barretto originals that provide further fodder for Santiago to explore, while the three-man trumpet section of Roberto Rodriguez, Rene Lopez, and Joseph Roman melts faces with their scorching exclamations. In fact, if a summer day had its pick of soundtracks, "El Tiempo Lo Dira" could possibly be the premier accoutrement.

The flipside kicks off with the centerpiece of the entire album, "Cocinado." Strains of the Farfisa organ give way to muted trumpets as the cha-cha beat is established, marked by the rattle of a jawbone on the "one" of every other bar. Much of the middle section of the piece consists of dazzling exchanges between Barretto, the timbales of Orestes Vilato, and John Rodriguez on bongos. The number was prominently featured in the film Our Latin Thing (1972), documenting what would become the Fania All-Stars caught live in 1971 at Manhattan's The Cheetah Club.

Santiago excels once again as he is featured on the ballad piece "Triunfo El Amor." An upbeat mambo, "Alafia Cumaye" then closes the brief set that clocks in at just under thirty-five minutes. Yet, in the best sense, less is really more here. Nary one note is out of place and the feel and flow of the program leaves an intoxicating impression, not to mention the strong urge to spin the entire album all over again.

Associated equipment used for evaluation

VPI Scout 1.1 turntable with Soundsmith Aida Mk II cartridge
Musical Fidelity A3CR amplifier and preamp
Sutherland Insight phono preamp
Arcam SDS 50 SACD player
Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus 805 loudspeakers
Cardas cable and interconnects, Chang Lightspeed power conditioner
Solidsteel S3 Series audio rack

Track Listing

Que Viva La Musica; Bruca Manigua; La Pelota; El Tiempo Lo Dira; Cocinado; Triunfo El Amor; Alafia Cumaye.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Roberto Rodriguez, Rene Lopez, Joseph Roman: trumpet; Orestes Vilato: timbales; John Rodriguez: bongos; David Perez: bass; Luiz Cruz: piano and keyboards; Adalberto Santiago: vocals.

Album information

Title: Que Viva La Musica | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Craft Recordings


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