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Ray Barretto: 1929—: Musician

Formed New Band

In 1992 Barretto formed a sextet called New World Spirit, "which made some absorbingly unpredictable albums," wrote Richard Ginell in All Music Guide. "There was also a remarkable power and tightness about the band, and a freshness about almost all the arrangements," noted Roberts in Latin Jazz. New World Spirit recorded Handprints (1991), Ancestrial Messages (1993), and Taboo (1994) for Concord Picante, before switching to Blue Note for Contact (1997). Reviewing Contact for Latin Beat Magazine, Rico Raúl noted, "Each member of New World Spirit is a strong player, taking articulate, intelligent solos, and tunes like 'Caravan,' 'Poinciana,' and 'Serenata' are beautifully interpreted."

Barretto's willingness to experiment has kept his music fresh for more than fifty years. "While Ray Barretto's congas have graced more recording sessions than virtually any other conguero of his time," noted Ginell, "he has also led some refreshingly progressive Latin jazz bands over the decades." Besides jazz and Latin music, Barretto has also recorded with the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Although his home base was in the United States, Barretto remained very popular in France and has toured Europe a number of times. In 1999 Barretto was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. Pekar noted, "As a lifelong purveyor of Afro-Cuban jazz, Barretto has been a pivotal figure in the fusion of jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, moving the musical hybrid toward the mainstream with his propulsive percussion work."

Selected discography

Pachanga With Barretto, Riverside, 1961.

Charanga Moderna, Tico, 1962.

Acid, Fania, 1967.

Together, Fania, 1969.

The Other Road, Fania, 1973.

Rican/Struction, Fania, 1979.

Handprints, Concord, 1991.

My Summertime, Owl; Blue Note, 1996.

Contact!, Blue Note, 1998.



Roberts, John Storm, Latin Jazz: The First of the Fusions, 1880 to Today, Schirmer Books, 1999.

Roberts, John Storm, Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States, Oxford University, 1979; Original Music, 1985.


Latin Beat Magazine, March 1998, p. 41; September 2000.

Newsday, February 24, 2002, p. D37.


All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com

National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/programs/jazzprofiles/archive/barretto.html

Weekly Wire, http://www.weeklywire.com

—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Miguel Angel Asturias: 1899-1974: Writer to Don Berrysmith Biography - Grew up in the Pacific NorthwestRay Barretto: 1929—: Musician Biography - Became A Conguero, Ventured Into New Directions, Formed New Band