Albums

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Latin Jazz - Released June 20, 2006 | Rhino

Over the years, Ray Barretto has commanded respect in two different genres: salsa and Latin jazz. Not surprisingly, his salsa recordings have been much bigger sellers than his Latin jazz recordings -- while artists of the latter genre usually play small clubs, the big names in salsa can easily pack a sports arena in areas with a large Cuban or Puerto Rican population. When this two-LP set came out in 1976, Barretto was a superstar in salsa -- although many of the salseros who loved him for "Guarare" and the cha-cha "Cocinando" (which was the basis for Poncho Sanchez's "Sonando") were less likely to spend money on one of his Latin jazz releases. So not surprisingly, salsa is the main focus of Tomorrow: Barretto Live, which was recorded at New York's Beacon Theater on May 28, 1976. Though the album includes a few Latin jazz instrumentals, most Barretto fans bought it to hear five-star performances of such salsa favorites as "Ahora Si Que Vamo A Gozar," "Guarare," "Cocinando," and "Ban Ban Quere" (which boasts a passionate performance by singer Ruben Blades). Meanwhile, percussionist Tito Puente joins Barretto's hard-swinging band on a 14-minute performance of "Que Viva La Musica." Superb from start to finish, Tomorrow: Barretto Live is among Barretto's essential recordings. ~ Alex Henderson
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Latin Jazz - Released June 20, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

Many pure salsa and Latin jazz fans have a difficult time with Ray Barretto's Atlantic Records period in the late 1970s because he was making a deliberate run at the crossover jazz/dance music charts. Who better to strive for such a thing? Barretto established his bona fides in jazz two decades earlier -- and returned to them time and again until the end of his life. He was also one of the prime innovators in New York's salsa explosion, and even played on pop records as a sideman. His credits are book-length. This set from 1977 has dated well. A very large cast date, it features Stix Hooper, Joe Sample, and Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, as well as a host of West Coast session players from the pop, jazz, and Latin worlds: saxophonist Pete Christlieb, trumpeter Louis "Perico" Ortiz, trombonist Garnett Brown, drummers Terry Bozzio and Angel "Cachete" Maldonado, guitarist Ray Gomez, and bassist Jeff Berlin are just a few of the players who appear. The vibe here is more jazz-funk than fusion or salsa. It features loads of keyboards to balance the percussion load, making it more accessible to non-Latin fans, though the grooves balance the smooth with the steamy. The best tracks are "Here We Go Again," Leti," and "Tumbao Africano," while "Señor Funk" and "Expresso" are fine songs as well. ~ Thom Jurek
$7.99

Latin Jazz - Released June 20, 2006 | Rhino

Many pure salsa and Latin jazz fans have a difficult time with Ray Barretto's Atlantic Records period in the late 1970s because he was making a deliberate run at the crossover jazz/dance music charts. Who better to strive for such a thing? Barretto established his bona fides in jazz two decades earlier -- and returned to them time and again until the end of his life. He was also one of the prime innovators in New York's salsa explosion, and even played on pop records as a sideman. His credits are book-length. 1978's Can You Feel It? finds him delivering fusion, jazz-funk, and smooth, dancefloor-oriented soul tunes. It is a diverse and sometimes unfocused album played by Todd Anderson on saxophones, Richie Morales on drums, Howard Schneider on piano and synth, Eddie Rivera and Neil Stubenhaus on bass, Jeff Richman on guitar, and a slew of percussionists and others in addition the leader. Hardcore music fans may recognize some of these names as personnel in bands led by Sly & Donny Hathaway. There are also a number of vocalists, including Cissy Houston and Prince Phillip Mitchell. The latter delivers the fine pop-soul performance on "What Part of Heaven Do You Come From?" Given the glistening production on the title track's smooth dancefloor soul, one can judge that the overall sound here is warm, full, and bright -- right in line with Atlantic's R&B aesthetic of the era. Pair that with killer fusion tunes such as "Whirlpool," "Daydreams," and "Confrontation," and it becomes -- in the best way possible -- a head scratcher. Other highlights on this date include the party funk of "Stargazer" and the punchy "Sting Ray." Despite a rather schizophrenic sequence, Can You Feel It? sounds better in the 21st century than it did at the time. Here, Barretto proved himself unwilling to simply fulfill audience expectations at the cost of his own creative enrichment. ~ Thom Jurek

Genre

Latin Jazz in the magazine
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