Follow Us on Twitter

Ray Barretto - Latin Soul Man

Ray Barretto, Latin Soul Man

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

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.

Ray went out and bought himself a conga, an instrument he would become synonymous with.

Back in New York, he became a sought after player, making dates with both Latin and jazz bands – but it was the jazz world that made his name. He appeared on sessions with the likes of Kenny Burrell, Art Blakey and Oliver Nelson and became the first-choice percussionist for New York’s big three indie jazz labels, Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside.

Indeed, it was Riverside’s co-owner Orrin Keepnews who encouraged him to record as a leader and also to make those records Latin. With the arrival of Barretto’s group Charanga Moderna, Keepnews got what he was looking for, a presence in the world of Latin as well as the chance to put the label into new markets.

Owing to financial difficulty, however, Barretto left Riverside before it was forced to close and signed with Tico, the leading Latin label at the time. It was there he recorded El Watusi, the success of which paved the way for an amazing career.

But even so, it was the sound of the street that saved him. Owing to the increasing number of Puerto Rican immigrants, there was a growing sense of community that was echoed in their music. Innovators began taking the soul of the Harlem music scene and mixing it with their own musical heritage to create the uniquely Nuyorican sound of boogaloo, or Latin soul.

It was a sound that Barretto embraced and made his name with. Ray Barretto: Latin Soul Man is a collection of his seminal hits that’s been remastered from the original source tapes. It’s a genuinely exhilarating collection of work that features some of the finest Latin funk 45s ever laid down on wax.

Highlights include the out and out funk of Right On and Soul Drummers, the Latin romanticism of Love Beads, the sparkling pianos and hand-clap style of El Watusi, the Connery-era Bond music of Senor 007 and the sharp snappiness of Mercy Mercy Baby. In truth, however, there’s not a bad track among them, so just kick back and enjoy the pleasure trip this inspired collection provides…

Download picks: (If you absolutely have to) Right On, Love Beads, El Watusi, Senor 007, Do You Dig It, The Teacher of Love, A Deeper Shade of Soul, Babalu

Track listing:

  1. Right On
  2. Soul Drummers
  3. New York Soul
  4. Together
  5. Love Beads
  6. El Watusi
  7. Senor 007
  8. El Bantu
  9. Mercy Mercy Baby
  10. Do You Dig It
  11. The Teacher Of Love
  12. Hard Hands
  13. Got To Have You
  14. A Deeper Shade Of Soul
  15. Power
  16. Tin Tin Deo
  17. Babalu